How Cross-country Skiing Works

Cross-country Skiing Tips

Talk about a workout.
Talk about a workout.

To an observer, it may look easy to gracefully glide across the snow on skis; however, learning the techniques needed for cross-country skiing takes time. You may have no trouble getting up and gliding your first time out on skis, but you'll intuitively pick up some tricks for better skiing as you gain experience. Cross-country skiing requires a mix of different techniques, motions and rhythms that can be mastered only through practice.

While you may be proficient enough on your first outing to get from point A to point B, it may be helpful to take some skiing lessons. A skilled instructor can help you learn proper techniques and prevent you from developing bad skiing habits.

There's a good reason why most gyms feature Nordic machines: Cross-country skiing is an excellent cardiovascular workout. If you're not in decent shape before trying cross-country skiing, you may be in a for a long day of huffing and puffing. If you have a trip planned, try to get in shape beforehand so you can enjoy the sport.

While you're skiing, try to keep your knees and ankles flexed and your upper body forward. It's also important to work on establishing a rhythm as you kick, stride and glide -- move your arms and body forward, not side to side, and prolong the forward glide. When first starting out, you may feel more comfortable on wider and slower skis. After you get the hang of cross-country skiing, you can experiment with different types of skis that can provide you with a speedier and more agile experience.

For more information on cross-country skiing, see the links on the following page.

Related HowStuffworks Articles


  • American XC Skiers. "Beginners." (Dec. 3, 2009)
  • American XC Skiers. "Classic Technique Basics." (Dec. 3, 2009)
  • Cazeneuve, Brian. Cross-country skiing: a complete guide. W. W. Norton & Company, 1996. ISBN 0393313352, 9780393313352.
  • Cross Country Ski Areas Association. (Dec. 3, 2009)
  • Forde, Olav. "Winter sports in Norway." (Dec. 3, 2009)
  • Hindman, Steve. Cross-country skiing: building skills for fun and fitness.
  • The Mountaineers Books, 2005. ISBN 0898868629, 9780898868623.
  • Johnston, Greg. "Mastering cross-country skiing depends on knowing essentials." Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Jan. 17, 2002.
  • Lund, Morten. "A short history of alpine skiing." Skiing Heritage, Winter 1996.
  • Older, Jules. Cross-Country Skiing for Everyone. Stackpole Books, 1998. ISBN 0811727084, 9780811727082.
  • Rusko, Heikki. Cross Country Skiing. Wiley-Blackwell, 2003. ISBN 0632055715, 9780632055715.