What is Nordic skiing?
Nordic skiing is travelling over snow on skis, where the main propulsion is provided by muscles, not gravity. It was invented in the Nordic countries centuries ago out of necessity for travelling in winter. Subsequently, it has been refined into a leisure activity and a competitive sport.
What is the difference between classic and skating?
Classic technique was the original form of Nordic skiing, using two skis adapted with a means of gripping the snow on the soles of the skis. The skis are generally maintained parallel and are normally used in grooves cut into the snow on prepared tracks. Skate technique was only developed in the 1980s and uses slightly shorter skis. This is more akin to the technique used by ice skaters, however it requires much better balance. It is a faster means of travelling for the proficient, but physically demanding for the beginner. The general consensus is to start your experience of Nordic skiing on classic skis, before progressing to skating.
How to I start?
Nordic skiing is not walking on skis and difficult to do effectively without some instruction. It is strongly recommended that novices start with the classic technique which is easier to assimilate and quickly allows you operate solo on the easier tracks. For a complete novice the skate technique can be physically demanding and frustrating. If skating is your aim I recommend that you start with classic technique and move on to skate once you have found your Nordic balance.
Do I need a ski pass for Nordic?
Yes and No. For the Nordic sites at Col de Pierre Carrée, Mont Chéry and Chavannes no ski pass is required for the Nordic pistes but for the latter 2 you will need to pay for the alpine lift which takes you to the start. For all other Nordic sites you will need a Nordic ski pass. These can normally be purchased on site or from the tourist offices. Expect to pay between €8 and €10 per day.
A friend has offered to lend me some equipment should I accept?
SKIS. Cross country skis are sized on the basis of weight as well as height of the individual. If you are heavier than your friend then you will be able to climb up hills but have no glide on the flat or downhill. If you are lighter then you will have no grip and be unable propel yourself forwards on the flat or go up hills, but you will be wonderfully fast coming down!
BOOTS. If you have the identical foot size fine, otherwise decline as properly fitting ski boots are essential to gain the feel of Nordic skiing. NB there are 2 different types of ski bindings, SNS and NNN, and the boots from one system are not compatible with the bindings of the other.
POLES. The length of the poles is an important factor in Nordic skiing. For classic technique, the poles should just fit into the armpit when the baskets are by your feet. For skate the poles should reach your chin.
Borrowing from a friend could be a false economy.
Can I rent cross country ski equipment and what does it cost?
Yes, but not all ski hire shops stock cross country equipment. Some Nordic sites such Agy and the Col de Joux Plane have a foyer where you can hire equipment. Expect to pay in the region of 10€ for a day’s hire of classic skis, boots and poles and marginally more for skate equipment. If need be I can advise at time of booking.
What should I wear?
Difficult to answer simply as it will depend on the weather. However, you are likely to be more active than when alpine skiing so your downhill kit is likely to be too warm for Nordic. A layered approach allows for maximum temperature adjustment whilst remembering that if you are a novice you are likely to sit down in the snow a few times. Downhill gloves are not suitable as they are too warm and often too bulky to allow proper control of the ski poles. Lighter windproof gloves are ideal. If you cycle or run in the UK in the winter months, you probably already have suitable clothing for Nordic skiing. If it is bright, don’t forget your sunglasses and sun cream.
Who is it suitable for?
Anybody and everybody. My youngest client so far this year was 7 years old and the oldest a mere 76 years old. It is a sport that can be tailored to suit the needs of the individual from the sofa sportsperson to the fitness buff. No previous skiing experience required.
How many lessons do you need to be able to go off on your own?
Everyone is different but usually a half day of lesson on classic technique will give you enough technique and confidence to set out on your own on the easier tracks. Have look at the testimonial pages for some who have done so.
I have cross country skied before and would now like to explore. Can I get a guide to show me around?
Certainly – use the contact form to let me know your requirements.
I have always wanted to have a go at one of those long distance races, what do I need to do?
Firstly decide which event you wish to participate in and find out whether it is a classic or a free technique event – it would be a shame to get disqualified at the start for using the wrong technique. Some of the big races, such as the Vasaloppet, have a limit on the number of participants and fill up long before the date of the race so you will need to plan ahead. Any long distance event is a blend of fitness and efficient technique. I can assist with efficiency but fitness is totally up to you. Use the contact form to discuss further.