How To

Cross-country Skiing Provides Introduction to Downhill

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Learning the basics of cross-country skiing can provide a great foundation for downhill skiing.

If you’re new to outdoor winter sports and the fast-paced motion of downhill skiing seems a bit too daunting to take on, cross-country skiing is a great place to start. Not only will this sport provide the necessary know-how of downhill skiing, but it allows participants to get accustomed to skiing gear and grasp the coordination necessary for downhill.

Whether it’s taking your family out to cross-country ski for a few hours or planning a touring trip where you will camp along the way, it’s a great sport for people of all skill levels. Cross-country skiing dates back to prehistoric times where it was not only used as a means of travel, but as a method of hunting animals such as deer and moose. It was brought to North American in the 1850s by Norwegian and Swedish Immigrants.

Depending on what type of cross-country skiing you’re planning on doing, you will need to choose between traditional touring skis and metal-edge touring skis, according to an article posted on REI’s website regarding how to choose the correct equipment. Touring skis are typically longer, narrower, and lighter, made for use on maintained trails. Metal-edge touring skis’ shorter length allow for greater maneuverability and are wider to increase stability in deep snow, making them more suited for off-trail exploration.

As for choosing the right length of skis, body weight is one of the best determining factors, and seeking out expert advice while shopping is encouraged. On the left-hand side of the cross-country ski page on REI’s website is a series of questions regarding weight, best use, gender, etc. that will narrow down the selection of skis and provide each buyer with a customized list.

When purchasing boots, make sure you take along a pair of whatever socks you plan to wear while skiing, with wool socks most recommended. The traditional touring boots provide flexibility, while metal-edge touring skis offering more rigidity that is necessary for off-trail terrain. Bindings should be purchased after the skis and boots, with the most attention paid to how well the boots and bindings work together. There are a number of options geared toward both traditional touring and metal-edge touring.

There are two categories of poles, with in-track touring poles made for traditional use and out-of-track/metal-edge touring poles for harsher conditions. The traditional poles should reach from the ground to your armpit, with the metal-edge poles incorporating height adjustments that are perfect for traversing slopes. For more information about what clothing to wear while cross-country skiing, read this article.

While learning to cross-country ski for the first time, either take an instructional class or go out with a friend who has a good knowledge base. The strides involved in the sport may seem simple, but it doesn’t hurt to have a guide with you, sharing pointers that are only understood after many times on skis. After starting on flat trails, you can move toward more rugged terrain, and eventually make the transition to downhill skiing.

Image from Petar Milošević on the Wikimedia Commons

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