A Beginner’s Guide to Cross-Country Skiing: Part 1

A Beginner’s Guide to Cross-Country Skiing: Part 1

The beauty of cross-country skiing is that you’re able to admire the stunning scenery around you whilst skiing on crisp white snow, compared to downhill skiing when you move at a much faster pace. Take your time to marvel at the fascinating wildlife, beautiful winter flowers and sky-blue alpine lakes. In some places you can stop off in a little hut and cook a snack en route to warm up and keep your energy levels high, and others you can buy food and hot drinks in a restaurant, bar or mountain hut. It’s also a great overall workout that will tone your entire body. What are you waiting for? Our resident cross-country skiing instructor Alessia Francini-Beaumont tells us the appeals of cross-country skiing, how it differs to downhill skiing, and some top tips for beginners…

Why should I go cross-country skiing?
Cross-country skiing is a popular winter sport with people of all ages – it’s a great alternative to snowshoeing or downhill skiing as a means of getting about on holiday that enables you to see as much scenery as possible whilst keeping fit at the same time. Like when you first learn to ride a bicycle, cross-country skiing is all about mastering the art of balance – and once you’ve done that, you’re halfway there!

What’s the difference between cross-country and downhill skiing?
Cross-country skiing allows you to have more control, you can travel as fast or as slow as you like. When downhill skiing, it’s mostly fast and you see the breathtaking scenery at a sped-up pace. When cross-country skiing, you’ll move at a more leisurely pace and take in all the scenes around you. Although both types of skiing require physical strength, when cross-country skiing you’ll use every muscle in your body, particularly your arms and legs when striding through snow. Downhill skiing uses mostly the legs.

Is it a dangerous sport?
Cross-country skiing is considered to be one of the safest of winter sports. Although falling could result in minor sprains, serious injuries are very rare, and they usually occur only when the cross-country skier ventures into steep terrain or off the main piste. On a Headwater holiday you’ll have the help of a local expert who will give you easy step-by-step instructions right from putting on your ski boots to control techniques.

Can anyone take part?
Yes, cross-country skiing is suitable for all ages and abilities, providing you are fit and healthy. You can do as much or as little as you want on a cross-country skiing holiday, too, so there’s no pressure.  The combination of low risk of injury with smooth, dynamic movement also makes it an ideal endeavour for older people. Please see below for details on our holidays suitable for beginners.

Do I really need lessons? 
Yes – even if you have done Alpine (downhill) skiing before, the equipment and the techniques are different. It is a different sport essentially and you’ll be taught how to stay balanced, how to control the equipment, brake, go up and down and, most importantly, how to fall and get back up again (it can happen).

What are your top tips for beginners?

  1. Don’t be afraid – there are professional instructors available to teach you and help you along the way.
  2. Wear layers – you’ll be constantly moving so will want to easily remove items of clothing along the way (I’ll tell you more about what to wear in part 2 next week).
  3. Move at your own pace – start off slow and once you’ve built up your confidence and mastered the art, you can increase the distance and pace.
  4. Carry a lightweight backpack filled with essentials for your day: water, food, camera, phone.
  5. Have fun – cross-country is more of a social sport than downhill skiing and you’ll get to chat to other skiers whilst taking in the breathtaking scenery.

Are you intrigued by cross-country skiing? Headwater has cross-country skiing holidays in Venabu, Norway; Kandersteg, Switzerland, and Leutasch, Austria. Look out for Part 2 of the guide coming in two weeks!

Are there any questions about cross-country skiing that Alessia can help you with? Leave them in the comments below!