Let this be the winter you start cross-country skiing.
By Trent Jonas
Between its affordability and smaller barrier to entry than some other winter sports, Nordic-style or cross-country skiing opens up a world of opportunity to enjoy the outdoors during the colder months. It's time to take the leap and get started. Whether it's for the workout or the winter scenery, here are five reasons you should start cross-country skiing.
Cross-country skiing is considered to be one of the most complete, full-body workouts you can get. When you’re on the trail, you use major muscle groups in your arms, legs, chest, shoulders, back, and core, as well as smaller muscles throughout your body as you make micro-adjustments for changes and terrain and for maintaining your position on the skis, themselves. As a cardio workout, cross-country skiing is second to none, and because you do it in cold weather conditions, you burn even more calories. Finally, cross-country skiing is a low-impact activity, which means it’s relatively easy on your joints and is an activity that can be enjoyed by folks of all ages.
For those who live in the nation’s norther latitudes, it’s easy to simply “hibernate” and nurse your cabin fever during the cold, dark, snowy winter months. Cross-country skiing, however, is an awesome way to escape winter ennui, get some exercise, and soak in as much vitamin D as the winter sun will allow you—all while staying perfectly warm thanks to the activity. This, in turn, will improve your mood and outlook on life. You may even start looking forward to winter!
Cross-country skiing involves weight shifts, diagonal striding and coordinated movements between your arms and legs. As you become adept at skiing, your balance and overall coordination will improve, which benefits you not only on your skis but in other sports, as well as everyday activities. Additionally, moving over terrain changes and uneven surfaces improves your body’s ability to position and perceive itself in space, known as your kinesthetic sense, as well as your visual acuity.
In addition to the benefits to your physical health and overall wellbeing, cross-country skiing is a great way to get out and simply enjoy the beauty of the natural world. Cross-country ski trails tend to be in scenic areas, like parks, forest preserves, and even golf courses. You’ll often be out among trees, enjoying interesting terrain, and afforded the opportunity to see winter bird species and other wildlife. Other than your own breath and the gliding of your skis on the trail, cross-country skiing is a silent sport, which allows you to enjoy all the sounds of nature, as well as the sights. Get out and do some stargazing with a nighttime ski across a frozen lake.
With a little practice and some pointers from a friend or coach, you can pick up the basics of cross-country skiing in a day. And with a bit more experience, you’ll be out on the intermediate trails in short order. Renting your equipment is a good way to start out, getting a feel for the sport and the gear. When you’re ready to get your own gear, you can spend a lot of money doing so, but you don’t have to. Along with layers of non-cotton clothing, all you really need are skis, poles and boots. You can get a full set-up new for a few hundred dollars, and it will last as long as you want it to. Better yet, get started with some used equipment. You’ll save big and, if you want, swap in new gear over time.