About cross country skiing

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About cross country skiing

Cross country skiing is fun...  it's also easy to learn, healthy, family friendly, accessible, affordable, and offers great variety!

Easy to learn...
Cross country skiing uses natural movements - it doesn't require special skills to get started and has a short learning curve. Just a couple of hours spent being coached by a professional instructor will give you the skills needed for a lifetime of fun!

Cross country skiing is one of the healthiest recreational activities for both body and soul. You can enjoy the beauty of nature - with its towering trees, mountain vistas, or snow-covered meadows - while experiencing a total body workout. It uses all your muscle groups and is a terrific cardiovascular activity! Plus, you can do it at your pace and according to your fitness level... from smooth gliding on gentle trails to bounding up, over, and down varied terrain.

Family friendly...
Cross country skiing is a multi-generational activity. Infants and toddlers can ride in a backpack or on a sled... while it's also gentle for grandparents and great-grandparents. Teenagers who want to go fast can skate ski, a technique that combines the leg motion of ice skating and the arm push of cross country skiing. Even the family dog can join you, as some centers welcome canines on designated dog trails. (Special enclosed sleds, called pulks, with a back support for a child, can be rented at many ski areas. They're designed to be pulled by a cross country skier.)

There are more than 350 cross country ski areas in the U.S. and Canada. Most are less than two hours from urban centers and many are even within an hour's drive.

A cross country skiing day trip costs an average of $12 for a trail fee and $35 for a trail pass, rental equipment, and a lesson package. And compared with other winter vacations, a cross country ski escape costs much less. A weekend vacation for a family of four - including accommodations, breakfast and dinner, trail fees, rental equipment, and a lesson - is available in New England for under $500. A week's getaway for a couple at a lodge or ranch in the U.S. or Canadian Rockies - including seven nights lodging, all meals, and skiing - is priced from $2000.

Cross country ski areas offer lodging and skiing choices from log cabins with wood-fired saunas surrounded by backcountry ski terrain to romantic country inns with miles of groomed trails just outside the door. Cross country skiing can be combined with an alpine ski resort vacation... or with a village B&B getaway weekend of shopping, dining, and cultural pursuits. You can ski with friends and family or choose solitude...the choice is yours!

Skiing etiquette...
When cross country skiing at a ski area, resort, or trail:

  • Help maintain the integrity of the ski tracks by not skiing over them.

  • Obey posted signs.

  • Give downhill skiers the right of way.

  • Fill in your divots.

  • Grooming vehicles may be on the trails—use caution.

  • Return to the lodge by closing.

  • Remove skis at road crossings.

  • Stay on the marked trails.

  • Never ski alone.

  • Choose trails appropriate to your ability and fitness.

  • Report any accidents to the Nordic center.

Choosing equipment

You can select specialized cross country equipment that's right for the type of skiing you'll be doing. The gear described below is designed primarily for use on machine-groomed trails, either with tracks for classic skiing or with a smooth, packed surface for skate skiing. (Equipment for backcountry skiing is not addressed here.)

Before buying equipment, it's best to decide what you'll be doing most often with your equipment. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you plan to ski mostly on machine-prepared trails at a nordic center; will you mostly break your own trail in the woods, over fields, and on golf courses; or will you follow in the tracks of other skiers breaking trail?

  • Will you generally use a snowmobile trail that's packed but not specifically tracked for skiing?

  • Do you prefer to classic ski (also called diagonal stride) or to skate ski?

You may want to rent gear for the first few outings and try different kinds and brands before buying. Most cross country centers rent equipment, and many of them carry state-of-the-art demo gear from a variety of manufacturers. As your skills improve, you'll come to know the type of skiing you prefer, and buying equipment becomes easier.

Generally speaking, you'll select from skate skis, or waxable or waxless classic skis. A knowledgeable salesperson at a specialty shop can help you select the correct length. A wider model usually provides more stability, while a shorter ski is easier to maneuver. Most recreational skiers use waxless skis and appreciate their convenience. People concerned with speed and performance may prefer waxable skis, as they go faster, glide farther, and are quieter sliding over the snow.

Boots that feel like a comfortable snug shoe are probably your most important purchase. If you plan to primarily skate ski, choose a stiffer skate model. Otherwise, select from classic models that fit most like a walking shoe. The boot you choose will determine the binding system for your skis. We reco

mmend wearing seamless socks made of blended material; a good ski shop can suggest appropriate socks.

Poles are made of different materials. Usually the lighter the pole, the higher the price. (Only elite athletes are likely to notice performance based just on pole weight.) Choose a pole that's the right length for your height and type of skiing (classic or skating). It's best to consult with a professional for a proper fit.

For recreational skiers, waxing isn't a complex process. There are simple wax systems that allow you to select from three waxes based on temperature. Wax is applied to the ski surface by hand or heated iron, and then buffed in. Racers, however, take waxing to a whole different level - for them, it becomes a science of creating just the right mix of waxes to make skis go faster.
How to dress

Clothing for cross country skiing is versatile. You can use tights and windbreakers made for skiing, bicycling, or jogging. Ski shops carry stylish functional materials, but you can supplement specialized garments by raiding your closet for sweaters, long johns, hats, and mittens.

Conventional cold weather clothing like bulky parkas isn't suited to cross country skiing, as it constricts movement and generates excessive body heat. The trick is to retain warmth while allowing perspiration to evaporate. You get this by layering clothing to adjust heat loss to pace, terrain, temperature, and wind speed.

Wearing several light articles of clothing - for instance, polypropylene or similar underwear and synthetic fleece overpants plus windpants, with a wool or fleece zip sweater and a wind-resistant jacket - allows you to trap warm air in pockets of space. In most conditions, wear just one or two insulating layers, depending on the weather and the kind of skiing.

A lot of synthetic fabrics have the ability to wick moisture away from the skin and onto the next layer. In turn, the middle insulating layer should be quick-drying or wicking as well, so moisture ends up as close to the outside as possible. (Moisture and cold air aren't a happy mixture.) If underclothes are wet and your skin is clammy, there's an increased chance of hypothermia (a lowering of the body's core temperature). Cotton acts like a moisture sponge and accelerates chilling, so jeans definitely aren't recommended.

Aside from buying warm, comfortable, breathable boots, the best thing for your feet is layering, too. Try wearing thin polypropylene liners under a pair of wool or wool-blend socks. If your toes are susceptible to cold, resist the temptation to put on too many socks - you'll only restrict circulation, making your feet colder.

Mittens are best if you're prone to cold hands, since they allow fingers to share body heat. Gloves are better for precise ski pole control. For chilly weather, look for gloves with leather/synthetic palms, a long gauntlet at the wrist, and a light lining; in warmer conditions, critters a lot like handball gloves can be fine. Don't use too heavy a pair or they'll be sweat-soaked in the first mile.

Nordic terms

CANSI: Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors

Classic: refers to the diagonal stride (straight ahead) technique of cross country skiing, as opposed to skating.

Cross country skiing: skiing machine-groomed trail over varied terrain with lightweight ski equipment. Boots are held onto the ski by a binding which secures the toe but allows your heel to freely lift up off the ski.

Groomed trail: the snow has been prepared by a machine for ease of movement.

Nordic: the umbrella term: Any type of skiing which uses free-heel equipment, including cross country, tidemark, ski touring, biathlon (cross country skiing and target shooting), and ski jumping (also called ski flying).

PSIA: Professional Ski Instructors of America

Skating: a technique used on a consistent packed surface where you ski in a V rather than straight ahead, pushing one ski to the side and gliding. Specialized equipment is available, although skating can also be accomplished on waxable cross country skis.

Ski touring: skiing ungroomed snow (including backcountry skiing), where you break your own trail.

Skijoring: cross country skiing while being pulled by a dog (or, sometimes, a horse or reindeer).

Tidemark: an elegant descent and downhill turning technique that's done mostly at alpine ski resorts and in the backcountry. Specific equipment - very similar to downhill ski gear, except the heel is free - is available, although the telemark turn can be executed on light cross country skis in the right conditions.

Tracks: grooves made in the snow by a machine, enabling a skier to ski more easily when employing diagonal stride. Tracks make learning much easier.

Ski equipment & wax

Alpina Sports
93 Etna Rd
Lebanon, NH 03766
phone: 603-448-3101
description Alpina Sports Corporation (ASC) is the importer/ distribution company for Alpina nordic and downhill boots and skis. The Alpina brands are headquartered in the foothills of the Southern Alps in a small, charming town called Žiri, in the Western part of Slovenia. Alpina Žiri has a long history of shoe and boot manufacturing, dating back to the turn of the 1900s. Since just after WWll in 1948, Alpina has been active in the export of outdoor sports footwear including Nordic and Alpine skiing boots, winter footwear, Hiking, and Trekking boots. ASC is also the North American distributor of Crispi telemark boots, Rottefella bindings, Start ski wax, Masters Poles and Hamax sleds. Beginning in 2008 ASC will be importing Peltonen skis, Exel ski and nordic walking poles, and Bjorn Daehlie outerwear

Atomic Ski USA
2030 Lincoln Ave
Odgen, UT 84401
toll free: 800-258-5020
description Atomic is a 50 year old Austrian winter sports company that offers a full range of Nordic skis, boots, bindings & poles. Production takes place under close supervision in their own Austrian factory. Here, they can keep careful eye on quality control as well as zero environmental impact. Production has gone totally green while enhancing the quality of the skis, boots & binding. Our goal is to make cross country skiing easier & more fun for everyone.

133 Elm Street
Winooski, VT 05404
phone: 802-846-5565
description As a leading manufacturer of cross-country ski poles, Exel utlizes state of the art technology to create the highest quality products in the market. The unique co-winding process used in manufacturing of the ski poles delivers consistent structural quality and performance.

Fischer Skis
60 Dartmouth Dr
Auburn, NH 3032
phone: 603-314-7110
description Fischer is the largest producer of cross-country skis in the world and offers a complete collection of skis for racers, recreational, junior and backcountry skiers. Fischer also offers a large selection of boots, poles, and bindings to complement the ski collection. Fischer’s connections to the aerospace and high performance car industry have produced lightweight innovative winter products for all abilities of skiers to help them enjoy the winter season.

4201 6th Ave S
Seattle, WA 98108

description For over 30 years, Karhu has innovated with skis focused on the wilder side of winter, from Nordic touring through XCD, telemark and alpine touring. Its rich history in developing products for skiing out the back door or deep into the backcountry continues this year with a renewed focus on the health of winter itself. Karhu introduces its new Greenlight? Core on its XCD Series, Women?s Series and select Mountain Series skis for 2007-2008, which improves performance, cuts weight and helps reduce its footprint through fast-growth, regionally-sourced, high-carbon-sequestration wood. For more information on the complete Karhu line, visit www.karhu.com

458 Sonwil Drive
Buffalo, NY 14225
toll free: 800-255-9982 x10 phone: 716-683-1022
description LEKI USA located in Buffalo, NY is the sole North American distributor of LEKI brand Alpine, Nordic, Back Country, Mountaineering, Trekking, and Nordic Walking Poles. Like their European counterparts who have been loyal to LEKI for nearly five decades, American outdoor enthusiasts know and appreciate LEKI for quality and value.

4201 6th Ave S
Seattle, WA 98108

description Madshus, based in Biri, Norway, is a world leader in Nordic ski design and manufacturing and is the second-largest brand of cross-country skiing worldwide. Madshus launched an innovative and successful boot program to mark the company's 100th anniversary in 2006, and the boots were soon adopted by the world's top cross-country skiers. Continuing to innovate, Madshus now launches a full line of ski poles, from Junior to World Cup Racing, to compete as a full supplier of cross-country skiing equipment. For more info on Madshus, visit www.madshus.com.

Rossignol Ski Company
PO Box 981060
Park City, UT 84098
phone: 435-252-3300
description Rossignol is North America's largest supplier of Nordic related products which include but are not limited to skis, boots, poles and bindings. Rossignol was started in the French Alps in 1907 and celebrates it's 100th anniversary as the world's largest ski brand. Now located in Park City, Utah as part of our purchase and relocation by Quiksilver, Rossignol is now an American brand leading the world's market in outdoor ski sport activities. The Rossignol Nordic brand of the company continues to grow each year and is the largest supplier of light backcountry skis to the US market with over 40% market share, for example. With the recent addition of Rossignol touring and light backcountry clothing and the distribution of One Way poles for both Nordic skiing and Nordic walking as well as roller skis, Rossignol Ski Company has created a strong position at the lead of the US Nordic Market.

Rottefella AS
Industriveien 1 Klokkarstua
Oslo, Norway NO-3490
phone: 473-279-2520

Salomon USA
2030 Lincoln Ave
Odgen, UT 84401

description The only Cross-Country Ski Company which manufactures their own skis, boots and bindings. Salomon skis, boots, bindings and now clothing work in unison, so you can ski in harmony with your snowscape. Visit www.SalomonNordic.com or your local dealer for more info. Salomon, it fits you.

Swix Sport USA
600 Research Drive
Wilmington , MA 01887-1013
toll free: 800-343-8355
description Since 1946 and the development of the first modern ski waxes, Swix has been at the forefront of technology & focused on the cross country market.Purchasing their own ski pole factory in 1974 and ski clothing in 1989 has allowed Swix to focus on even more aspects of skiing. What began as 5 ski waxes has grown to over 3,000 innovative products. The most innovative & widely used products at the World Cup level. The Swix Sport USA website features basic information as well as technical info for the elite racer.

752 South 200 West
Heber City, UT 84032
toll free: 800 451 5127
description Toko waxes are known for being super fast, yet organized in a way that is very simple and easy to understand. We are a complete supplier offering everything from workshop (bulk) products and liquid glide products to the highest end racing products. Toko gloves are unconditionally warranteed for one year - the only gloves on the market. They are also machine washable and dryable. Toko gloves are known for their legendary durability and fit. Toko has a large design team with a lot of experience designing and developing apparel. Only the best materials are used. Colors are fresh. Check it out!

Whitewoods (Erik Sports)
PO Box 517
Tranquility, NJ 7879
toll free: 800-247-6579 phone: 973-786-7861
description We're all about service & dedication to our customers. We're always presenting you with the latest in products for your snow fun whether it's cross country skiing, snowshoeing, or snowboarding.We also carry poles, ski bindings (including 3-pin style), and accessories (maintainance tools, leg gators, headlamps, etc.).Our "Snowman Set" for children remains the choice for your little ones to begin a lifetime of ski enjoyment. Family-owned & operated since 1973. We fully understand the needs & wants of our customers. Come have fun in our WhiteWoods!


American Birkebeiner

From Wikipedia,

The American Birkebeiner (or Birkie) is the largest, and one of the longest cross country ski races in North America. The 51-km race from Cable to Hayward, Wisconsin is a member race of the Worldloppet Ski Federation, a federation which includes the world's most famous cross country ski marathons such as Sweden's Vasaloppet and Norway's Birkebeinerrennet. Each year approximately 9,000 skiers participate in the Birkie and related races.


Started in 1973 by legendary Northwoods Wisconsin promoter Tony Wise. Wise, who started the Telemark Ski Area in Cable, WI in 1947, helped to popularize modern-day cross country skiing when he built trails at Telemark in 1972. In February, 1973, Wise drew on his Norwegian heritage in starting a race named after a famous event in Norway.

The Birkie is one of the few races worldwide named after and commemorating a historical episode, from 1206 when a group of Birkebeiners - soldiers who fought for Sverre Sigurdsson and his descendants in the Norwegian civil war - smuggled the illegitimate son of Norway's King Håkon Sverresson from Lillehammer to safety in Trondheim. At Birkebeinerrennet in Norway, skiers still carry packs symbolizing the weight of an 18-month-old child; this tradition, although not required, is also respected by some skiers in the American Birkebeiner.


The Birkie has a reputation of attracting skiers of various ability levels. Cross country skiing is particularly popular in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and the Birkie draws a large number of skiers from this area who otherwise ski only recreationally. In addition to the Birkebeiner itself, the race day includes the shorter Kortelopet, a race geared more toward recreational skiers. Each year the Birkie and Kortelopet draw about 7,000 skiers and 20,000 spectators.

The Birkie course is quite hilly, and is recognized as one of the more difficult cross country ski marathon courses in the world. The current north-south alignment (used since 1992) has skiers traversing a 2-km flat section before turning up "Powerline Hill", a series of climbs to the 4.5-km mark. The trail then rolls until 12-km, when Firetower Hill takes competitors to 1730 feet (527 meters), the high point of the race and a climb of nearly 400 feet (122 meters) from the race start. In early years of the race, the Birkie began with a climb up the alpine slopes of Mount Telemark, but larger field sizes made this impractical. It was done mainly as a publicity stunt. Beyond High Point is a series of downhills, including "Bobblehead Hill" or "Sledder Hill" which has a rather tricky downhill, right turn near a snowmobile trail — allowing dozens of snowmobilers to watch and "score" skiers' falls. The trail rises steeply to the crossing of County Road OO (Referred to as "Double-Oh" which, at 22.8-km, is the unofficial halfway point of the race. Until 2001, the 23-km Korteloppet race ended here but has since been rerouted back to Telemark after splitting off from the main course at 9-km.

Beyond OO the course is less hilly, but by no means flat. After 40-km is the aptly named "Bitch Hill" where spectators cheer skiers up the steepest climb of the race. Several kilometers later (just south of Highway 77) is the last lengthy ascent of the race- El Moco- known for its numerous bends; each offering the empty promise of a summit. From the top, Hayward's watertower is a most welcome sight. There are several road crossings and open fields before the course empties onto Lake Hayward. Warm conditions have occasionally required the finish line be moved to a flat field just west of the lake. The four kilometer crossing of the lake is obviously flat, but unprotected from wind. Once off the lake the trail twists through the outskirts of Hayward on snow trucked in for the event. Over the course of hours thousands of tired and proud skiers make their way past three blocks of cheering spectators lining Hayward's Main Street.

The race begins with several waves in order to thin skiers out along the course. The first wave is made up of Elite skiers (generally around 200) who depart Cable at 8:20 AM, followed by Elite Women at 8:22. Waves then depart every ten minutes until the tenth and final wave leaves at 10:00 AM. New skiers must ski in Wave 10 unless they use another ski marathon time to qualify up to Wave 3. Waves 2 and 1 are open only to skiers who have skied in previous Birkies. The 23-km Korteloppet starts with the Birkie and Korte skiers are mixed in with the Birkie waves, distinguished by their yellow bibs.

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