Cross Country Skiing Basics

Cross Country Skiing on Minnesota's
Cross Country Ski Trails

Learning cross country skiing basics will get any cross country skiing beginner out on the trails with confidence. Enjoy the fun of Minnesota cross country skiing. Cross country skiing is a wonderful way to stay in shape and it is a winter activity that you can do for your whole life.

Cross Country Skiing Basics

Some national statistics show that participation in cross-country skiing has declined in recent years, however it remains very popular in Minnesota. 

The appeal of cross country skiing is that, once you're proficient, you can go anywhere, at your own pace. 

Cross-country skiing can be a slow, gentle and reflective way of experiencing the outdoors in winter. It can also be an adrenaline-pumping and competitive sport.

Cross-country skiing can be enjoyed in a wide variety of forms. It may be called "Nordic skiing," "ski touring," "track skiing," "skate skiing," "backcountry skiing," or "telemarking." 

Some of the Best Places
to Cross-Country Ski in Minnesota

Minnesota has some of the most extensive networks of cross-country ski trails in the U.S. Here are some of our favorite cross-country skiing destinations:

To really enjoy cross-country skiing and its fitness benefits, it is important to learn some cross country skiing basics such as:

  • How to move at a reasonable speed while feeling comfortable on a variety of terrains.
  • Some downhill techniques to avoid being confined to flat trails.
Cross-Country Skiing: Building Skills for Fun and Fitness

Various Cross-Country Skiing
Basic Techniques

  • Classic: Most basic technique and the one that most people learn first. Classic cross-country skiing is ususally done on groomed trails in tracks created by a trail grooming machine. Classic skis are narrower than downhill skis and the boots are soft.
  • Skate skiing: An athletic and aerobic speed technique that uses shorter skis and longer poles. Skate skiing is usually done on groomed trails but outside of the tracks.
  • Telemark: Originally a turning technique, telemark is used for both backcountry touring and on downhill slopes. Equipment includes harder boots and more side-cut skis for turning.

More Cross Country Skiing Basics

The basic technique or rhythm of classic cross country skiing is kick, stride and glide. The kick puts pressure on the center of the ski so it makes firm contact with the snow. The kick is accomplished while keeping your hip, and thus your weight, forward over the ski. 

The next movement is to stride with the other ski. This is done by shifting the opposite hip forward and launching into a glide. The tracks that are set into a groomed trail help to stabilize a skiier and allow you to concentrate on perfecting your diagonal stride.

Learning cross country skiing basics does take some time. If you are in reasonably fit condition, you should be able to become proficient in about 10 days by spending some time each day to focus on one aspect of skiing: the stride, poling, snowplowing, and step-turns.

Great Cross-Country Ski Trails: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Ontario



Minnesota's public cross-country ski trails.

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