Being in nature always gives me a boost of happiness and inspires me.

Recently, I was lucky enough to try skate skiing. A spin on the classic cross country skiing, skate skiing is like an ice skating motion but on snow.

To find out the best tips on how to start skate skiing, I spoke with Silke Jeltsch, Communications Manager at Whistler Sport Legacies.

Silke provided these top tips on how you can get started (and inspired!) to try cross country skiing.

How can a person start cross country skiing?

  • Cross country skiing is an easy access sport, not much specific gear is needed to get started.
  • It is ideal to start off at a Nordic centre such as Whistler Olympic Park, that has good quality rental gear, trails suitable for beginners and a ski school.
  • Cross country skiing is easy to get into! Most people pick up the gliding motion really fast and are able to shuffle along the trails from day one. It is, however, highly recommended to take a lesson! Like in any sport, the progression is much easier with the help of an instructor, and the learning curve for cross country skiing is very fast, so most people are able to go out confidently on their own after only one lesson.
  • Whistler Olympic Park offers first-time/beginner group, private lessons and progression clinics that focus on the basics, both for the classic and the skating technique. The park also offers lessons for intermediate/advanced skiers to brush up on their technique, or for those that want to try variations of the sport, such as biathlon, an Olympic sport that combines cross country skiing and target shooting.
  • Whistler Olympic Park also hosts specific events to get new skiers to the snow, for example the annual Women’s Ski Day event which is a day specifically for adult women to learn everything they need to get started skiing and connect with other women to ski with, or the Wednesday Nights series, with discounted tickets and rentals on Wednesdays from 3:00 to 9:00pm in mid-winter, a locals’ favorite.

Who can cross country ski?

  • All ages and all abilities can cross country ski. It is an ideal sport that can be a lifelong activity for people that want to stay active for life. Equipment is available for all ages from little children to adults.
  • Cross country skiing is one of the safest winter sports. The heel is not fixed in the bindings which diminishes the risk of potential injury, unlike in alpine skiing.
  • Cross country skiing is a sport with many health benefits, as it is a great way to get a cardio and full-body workout, as both legs and upper body are involved. It is popular for rehab, for cross-training and for improving strength and balance for other sports.
  • Cross country skiing is fairly inexpensive, compared to other winter sports, which makes it very accessible. Trail tickets and rentals cost a fraction of what it would cost for alpine skiing or snowboarding, and the cost to purchase gear is smaller than for most other specialized winter sports equipment.

What types of cross country skiing are there? For example, classic and skate

  • There are two types of cross country ski techniques, classic and skate.
    • Classic skiing is the traditional cross-country skiing technique which involves skiing in groomed tracks. From toddler to senior, everybody can pick up this technique quickly.  All trails at Whistler Olympic Park are groomed with tracks for classic skiing.
    • Skate skiing or “free technique” resembles the skating technique used on ice for hockey and speed skating. Skiers skate on a groomed surface without the grooves used for classic skiing. Skate skiing is usually a bit faster than classic skiing as the skate motion brings more momentum. It is the technique that is used in other Nordic winter sport disciplines: biathlon, which combines cross country skiing with target shooting, and Nordic combined, which entails cross country skiing and ski jumping. At Whistler Olympic Park, all trails are groomed for skate skiing.

What do you need to get started?

  • Skis, boots, poles (ideally properly fitted by an expert in a rental or retail shop, to ensure everything is sized correctly and comfortable to use). Before purchasing own gear, it is worth trying different models in a rental shop to find the perfect fit for boots, and length and model for skis and poles!
  • No specific clothing is required – dress in comfortable, light and breathable layers (avoid cotton), much like when heading out to a cold gym, winter hike, run or cycle, with a waterproof top layer on wet days. Clothing should allow to adjust temperature as participants heat up/cool down to be comfortable in varying conditions. Thin gloves or mittens are best and fit through the ski pole straps with ease.

Any other tips for a newbie?

  • Cross country skiing is more accessible and less intimidating than for example downhill skiing, so a lot of people are excited to give it a try and head out on their own, which is great. However, the learning curve is much faster when people take a lesson to learn the proper technique right from the start.

Even after only one session with an instructor, they will be a lot more confident on the trails, will progress faster, can ski further and will have a great motivation to learn more.

Be realistic with the duration of your ski session, especially if you are a beginner, so start with shorter outings on easy trails. Cross country skiing is exhausting, especially at the beginning! Work your way up to longer/more advanced trails.

  • Practice! Whistler Olympic Park has three beginner-friendly instructional areas that are ideal to practice drills. Repetition schools muscle memory and improves balance, technique and confidence for the trails
  • Bring snacks and water to keep fueled before or after your ski. At Whistler Olympic Park, a fully licensed restaurant is available in the Day Lodge to fuel up before or after going out on the snow.
  • Bring a friend to enjoy the experience together. Have fun, enjoy the beautiful views and the great outdoors.

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