As with many new activities, having a little insight from seasoned regulars can be super helpful. Below we have compiled ideas to make your cross country ski experience, be it the first of fiftieth, more enjoyable.
1) Start your day right. Whether it’s a sparkling and icy January day in the Midwest, or a drippy Vermont day in early March that can’t decide whether its spring-like or frigid, a hot beverage with some kick that can shove you out the door in the morning is a must. I usually opt for a cup of some kind of locally roasted dark coffee either brewed at home or picked up on the way to the trails (if you’re in the Northeast, you can’t go wrong with either Vermont Coffee Roasters or Vermont Artisan Coffee), but a frothy latte or a steaming cup of hot chocolate will do the trick beautifully.
2) Start your day right. Whether it’s a sparkling and icy January day in the Midwest, or a drippy Vermont day in early March that can’t decide whether its spring-like or frigid, a hot beverage with some kick that can shove you out the door in the morning is a must. I usually opt for a cup of some kind of locally roasted dark coffee either brewed at home or picked up on the way to the trails (if you’re in the Northeast, you can’t go wrong with either Vermont Coffee Roasters or Vermont Artisan Coffee), but a frothy latte or a steaming cup of hot chocolate will do the trick beautifully.
3) Pack well. For clothes, layers, layers, layers. Though on a cold day it might be tempting to wear that arctic exploration dress-coat rated to -100, more and thinner layers will allow you stay mobile and comfortably warm all day long. For equipment, any cross country center will be well stocked with skis, boots and poles for rental—you should be sure to have gloves (the ideal Cross country glove is a bit thinner than the classic bulky winter glove, but you can add warmth with a couple of cheap hand warmers), at least one extra pair of socks (snow is wet, and sweat, again, is a thing) and a good hat that you’re comfortable in. Also don’t forget to bring water—though its cold out, exercise is exercise—stay hydrated and stay healthy.
4) Choose the right place to ski. As we’ve mentioned, most cross country centers are well-equipped to provide equipment and instruction to first-time skiers. However, established centers with good grooming and a decent amount of flat-ish terrain will make for more an easier learning environment, a more manageable family adventure, and, most importantly, more fun. Find a reputable cross country center here.
5) To take a lesson or go solo? A qualified instructor can give you those initial movements which will make traveling across the slippery stuff far easier, and can quickly correct any bad form that is making your body work a whole lot harder than it needs to.
6) Cross country 101: there are two types of cross-country skiing. Skate skiing will require more technical development, so classic skiing is often the go-to choice for beginners looking to get their footing. With practice, skate skiing can be a fast-paced, high intensity activity perfect for thrill seekers and fitness buffs alike. To better understand the difference between the two techniques, and decide what is right for you, check out our beginner’s guide.
7) Be prepared to fall. Even if the terrain you’re learning on is relatively flat, it takes a bit of time to get your sea legs on those two skinny skis. Getting your balance is a mixture of practice, technique, and sheer intuition. Keep your knees bent, arms and poles moving, and you will get the hang of it. Unlike downhill tumbles, a fall on the flats is gentle and easy to get up from—so don’t get discouraged and just keep moving!
8) Keep your energy up! Skiing will have you moving your whole body. Especially if its chilly, a lightweight snack in your pocket can give you the boost you need to go up the last hill or around the last bend. I usually go for a classic crunchy granola bar, but bring whatever will warm you up and get you going—a nibble of chocolate, perhaps? Or a cookie left over from breakfast?
9) Have FUN. Skiing is meant to be enjoyable. If you’re a bit of an adrenaline junky, find a nice downhill to take a few loops on, or perhaps experiment with some careful jumping. If you are more of a meanderer, ask someone who knows the trails to direct you onto a loop that will allow you to explore a bit and lose yourself in the rhythm of the activity.
10) Don’t forget to look around you. Often, cross country ski trails cut through the most beautiful winter wonderlands. Keep an eye out for interesting wildlife, or thickets of snowy evergreens and tall maples, or vistas that open up to glorious mountain scenes. Chances are, any place you are cross country skiing will have all of these sights in abundance.
Reward yourself! You worked hard and did something adventurous. Pat yourself on the back and enjoy a relaxing happy hour back at the ski area or in the nearby ski town. Few things feel better than sipping a glass of wine or a beer, reminiscing about your time on the trails with friends and family. Or, if you’re still a touch chilled, treat yourself to a boozy hot chocolate. You’ve earned it.