Cross-country skiing: tips for beginners on the trail

18/02/2021 - SnowTrex

In the Alps, there are almost as many kilometres of cross-country trails as there are kilometres of pistes. It’s no wonder – Nordic sports are very popular, after all. If you want to give this trend sport a go, there are a few things to keep in mind. The DSV provides valuable tips for beginners.

Trail with double track.

The cross-country skiing techniques

Generally speaking, there are two different styles of cross-country skiing: the classic and the skating technique. For beginners, it starts with the leisurely classic style. Here, the skis glide in the track in a walking rhythm. With the faster skating style, the so-called “skating step” is used, where the skier pushes the skis sideways to the rear and thus picks up speed. The skater needs more space and therefore skates in a wider track next to the classic cross-country trail.

Cross-country skiers using a skating style in Seefeld.

The right cross-country ski

The right ski should be chosen carefully. The specialist in the sports shop or rental station will help you with this. There are suitable skis for both the classic and skating technique. Classic skis have a climbing zone under the binding to provide the necessary grip in the snow for propulsion. Small indentations in the base or adhesive wax serve as climbing aids at this point. Skating skis, on the other hand, have a continuous gliding surface and are also slightly shorter. The ski length depends on the height and weight of the skier. For classic skis, the following formula applies: body height + 20 cm. For heavy athletes, 5 cm are added to this value, whereas 5 cm are subtracted for lightweight skiers. For skating skis, the following formula applies: body height + 10 cm and + 5 cm (for heavy weight) or – 5 cm (for light weight).

The narrow cross-country skis are a shaky business.

The matching poles

Just as with touring, the poles play an important role in cross-country skiing. The use of poles supports balance and saves a lot of energy. The longer the poles, the more power-saving the push-off. The length of the poles is therefore based on the respective technique. Since swinging is an essential movement feature in cross-country skiing, skating poles in particular are very long. The following formulas are used for calculation: for the classic running technique, body height x 0.85. Cross-country skiers who use the skating technique base their choice on body height x 0.9. To ensure that the pole is not lost under any circumstances, the loop on the grip is particularly important and should always be individually adjustable.

The right footwear

Cross-country ski boots are softer and more flexible than ski boots. They nestle against the foot and stabilise the ankle area. The boots also differ in terms of the technique used. The skating boot has a firm sole to keep it stable and ensure good power transmission. The area around the ankle joint is also reinforced to provide additional protection and stability. The classic boot is softer and flexible in order to allow the boot to roll. In any case, the boots must fit as well as possible, which is why they should only be purchased with expert advice from sports retailers.

A classic cross-country ski boot with a soft upper material.

The right clothing

Anyone who moves in a sporty manner on the track will quickly work up a sweat. So, for cross-country skiers, the tried and tested layering technique is ideal, allowing you to adapt to all weather conditions. The breathable, moisture-transporting sports undergarments lie directly on the skin. On top of this, there is a long-sleeve top made of functional fibre, thin sports trousers and a windproof jacket with moisture protection. Those who get cold quickly will find an additional waistcoat or thin down jacket ideal. This is very light and can be stowed in the smallest pack in milder temperatures. The following accessories are also essential for a cross-country skiing outfit: close-fitting, gripping gloves, a cap or headband, sports glasses with UV protection and sunscreen with an adequate sun protection factor.

The fine-tuning

Just like Alpine skis, cross-country skis also need to be looked after. The right wax on the running surfaces reduces the sliding friction between ski and snow. To do this, a professional uses a special gliding wax. In general, a distinction is made between hot and cold waxes. While hot waxes are usually applied with an iron, cold waxes can be sprayed or rubbed on. In addition to gliding wax, the classic discipline uses climbing wax.

The cross-country skiing rules

In order to ensure safe cross-country skiing for all athletes on the trail, the FIS has issued a 10-point list of rules of conduct that every cross-country skier must follow:

1. Consideration for other athletes.

2. Observe markings and signs as well as the direction of travel.

3. On double and multiple tracks, you must always stay on the right-hand track. Cross-country skiers in groups must move individually, one after the other.

4. Overtaking is allowed on the right or left, but the overtaken person should take evasive action if it is safe to do so.

5. In case of oncoming traffic, both sides move to the right.

6. Pay attention to pole guidance. When overtaking or being overtaken, keep the poles close to the body.

7. Adapt speed to the trail conditions and personal ability. On inclines, poor visibility or high traffic density, move slowly and with foresight, and keep sufficient distance from the person in front of you.

8. The trail must be kept clear. In case of breaks or falls, the track must be cleared immediately.

9. Every skier is required to provide assistance in the event of an accident.

10. Witnesses and persons involved in accidents are required to give their personal details.

The foundation “Sicherheit im Skisport” has illustrated the FIS rules with lovingly-designed motifs.

Cross-country skiing tips

A decent network of cross-country trails is now part of the standard winter sports programme, and there are signposted areas for Nordic sports fans in almost all Alpine regions. Some areas are considered a mecca for cross-country skiers, as the network is very large, the tracks are well-developed and the scenery is fantastic. The most popular cross-country skiing centres include the Seefeld region (279 km), the Feldberg in the Upper Black Forest (330 km) and the Upper Engadine (220 km) in Switzerland, where the legendary Engadine Ski Marathon is held every year. However, the largest cross-country skiing region in Europe is the Dolomiti NordicSki, which combines twelve areas in Italy and Austria to form a huge network of around 1,300 kilometres of trails. These include the Upper Puster Valley, the Lienz Dolomites in East Tyrol and the Alpe di Siusi.

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