You will probably hear it all the time: The best way to access cross-country skiing is by starting with the classic technique in groomed trails. And that is precisely where I started. But I didn’t have much choice. At that time skating wasn’t really invented yet, and there was no distinction between classic cross-country skiing and nordic skiing, the more gentle style which became increasingly popular in recent years.
Now you have all these choices, but that might also confuse you. Of course, you can just go to your next nordic skiing center, rent the respective equipment for the different styles and try it out. But without prior experience, you might get annoyed or bored quickly and give up too early. Better is to choose the style which resonates with your current preferences and level of physical fitness. Why not doing a little quiz to find out which technique is most suitable for you?
Type A: Nordic cruising for health-conscious casual athletes
In everyday life, you practice some walking or go hiking. You do not want to exhaust yourself, but you are looking for some gentle exercise. You definitely do not call yourself an ambitious athlete. Performance improvement is less important to you, you just want to do something for yourself and your health. You like the nature and are looking forward to outdoor activities. You might want to do it with your partner, and it is important for you to be able to talk while you exercise?
Nordic cruising might be the right cross-country skiing style for you. It is perfect for health-conscious casual athletes. As previous experience in cross-country skiing is not so relevant, it is highly accessible. Really everyone can discover this leisurely hiking on ski type of outdoor exercise. This is perfect when you spontaneously decide to “try it out” on rental equipment. You can get an instructor, but this is not absolutely necessary on your first try. If you decide to go down this route, however, I recommend always to take some lessons. If you then have learned the basics, you might also leave the track at one point and pull your own tracks through the fresh snow – a real blast of freedom!
Type B: Classic or Skating for the regular recreational athlete
Is one of your favorite exercises running and you are doing it regularly? Or do you go to the gym to do your own workout? You might already have taken part in running a race and are proud to get to the finishing line. Maybe you are also doing cycling, swimming, dancing, mountain biking, or you are a team sportsman or -woman. Whatever the case, you can exhaust yourself, but you do not aim for the absolute top athletic performance. Nevertheless, you are happy if you succeed in delivering a slightly better time at a running event and leave the competition behind you.
You are probably ready for both: Either classic cross-country skiing using the diagonal technique or skating at a slower pace – both suit recreational athletes very well. You might well start with classic and transition to skating later. However, the primary intention is an athletic activity, which is comparable to running. If you work out regularly, you usually have the necessary conditions such as strength, endurance, and balance. In case you do not have any previous cross-country skiing experience I highly recommend to take an introductory course to learn the basic techniques. It prevents you from adopting wrong techniques which are difficult to correct later. Only then you can really enjoy the smooth movements and effortless glides which characterize cross-country skiing.
Type C: Skating for the ambitious athlete
You are a runner, triathlete, mountain biker, racing cyclist, team athlete, mountaineer, climber, alpine skiers or similar. You have already tried and enjoyed sports like inline-skating, ice skating or nordic blading or maybe you are even really good at it? You are a thorough athlete, and you work purposefully to increase your performance and like to compete with others.
Skating is the cross-country technique for the athletic ambitious – and that is what you seem to be. Power and strength, as well as excellent movement coordination, are a prerequisite for a dynamic and elegant skating technique. The fast glide on narrow skis requires high demands on strength, endurance, and coordinative abilities. Skating can become quite exhausting, especially on that level and on steep hills. As an ambitious athlete, however, you are striving to challenge yourself. You might even plan to attend one of the cross-country competitions which are nowadays organized in almost every nordic skiing center. However, if that sounds appealing to you get an experienced instructor as soon as you can and tell him what your goals are. You won’t get away with one simple introductory course.
By the way, classic country skiing purists most likely won’t agree with my approach here. Of course, you can also ski on a high-performance level in classic. In fact, there seems to be a bit of a revival lately which might have to do with the introduction of the skin ski, a well performing waxless classic ski with a teflon-infused synthetic mohair section built into the grip zone.
I know, it is a bit of a stereotype what I put down here. You might be a Class 5 climber who rather takes it easy in the snow and chooses to go for nordic cruising. Or you are more into trekking in the flats but as soon as the tracks are groomed you click into your classic racing skis and go for the next 20k race. It all depends on your personal preferences and fitness. That does not mean you need to stick to one technique forever. But mastering one technique at a time before moving to the next is definitely more rewarding.
And wherever you start, try out first, then buy! Fortunately, high-quality rentals are not such a scarcity these days anymore. Get a rental set and try out what technique suits you best. If you are a first-time skater, I highly recommend also getting some instructions from a pro. This can be a friend who teaches you some basics or book an hour with an instructor – it is definitely worth it!