Cross-country skiing can be a tough sport to get into if you don’t know where to begin.

You may be thinking: What equipment do I need? What do I need to know before I’m ready to hit the trail? How can I be sure I stay safe?

With the proper guidance, you can take up a sport that is equal parts fun and full-body workout. It’s no secret that cross-country skiing provides an invigorating cardiovascular workout. It utilizes all the major muscle groups, it’s low impact and it’s a great way to get outdoors in the winter. For many people, the benefits all make sense, but the problem is getting started.

Even though the concept is simple, choosing the right equipment can be a challenge, and it can take a while to master the basics enough to feel comfortable out on the trails. The key to mastering any new activity is to just take that first step and get going, so here are five tips to help you get out there and get up to speed as quickly as possible.

1. Choose Your Style

Before you begin skiing, you must decide what style of cross-country skiing, or “Nordic skiing”, is right for you. Nordic skiing can be split into two distinct styles: classic and skate. Classic is the more traditional form of cross-country skiing, and is the one that most beginners learn when they first start out. Classic cross-country skiing uses a kicking and gliding motion as you lean slightly forward. The skate style, on the other hand, requires skiers to use a V-pattern as you push off each ski, similar to ice skating. This skate style is more complex and harder to master, but also allows you to build up more speed. Once you determine which style you’re going to use, you can then turn your focus to equipment, safety practices and technique.

2. Always Safety First

When you watch cross-country skiing on television, it probably doesn’t look particularly dangerous. There are no steep mountain faces to fall off, you aren’t hustling across rapidly melting ice and there are no other athletes trying to knock you down.

However, when you first learn to cross-country ski, you’ll soon realize that this relatively tame sport still has its share of dangers. Since you are outside, the weather is always a factor, and can quickly become an issue if you aren’t properly dressed. It’s also important to never cross-country ski for long distances alone because something as simple as a turned ankle or twisted knee can end up with you being stranded in frigid temperatures.

Also, take the time to ensure the trails you are skiing on are properly groomed. The snow must be densely packed so you can learn without the fear of sinking down in deeper snow, or exhausting yourself before you build up some momentum. Properly groomed trails will allow you to relax, have fun, avoid injury and glide on your skis easier as you get comfortable.

3. Dress the Part

This tip could very well fall under the safety category, but it’s a good idea for it to stand alone because it can be one of the most overlooked aspects when it comes to cross country skiing for beginners. It is crucial to dress for the weather conditions, and dressing in layers is the best way to combat the weather when cross country skiing.

Not only is it important for safety, but dressing in layers will make you more comfortable while skiing, enhancing the overall experience. Bring a warm winter hat to keep your head warm and gloves for your hands, and always think mobility when selecting your Nordic skiing wardrobe. Synthetics and wool blends will allow sweat to evaporate, leaving you dry and fresh feeling throughout the day. Try to avoid cotton, as it will hold moisture in.

4. Choose the Right Equipment

There isn’t a ton of equipment required to cross-country ski, but it’s important to choose high quality boots, skis and poles that fit properly and meet your needs as a beginner to cross country skiing. The best beginner cross-country skis will keep you safe and comfortable and allow you to learn at your own pace. Riding a ski that is above your skill level will hinder a beginner’s learning, so it’s best to not be too ambitious when picking out your pair.

Your comfort on the trail also relies on your boots being the proper size because as most people know, wearing a pair or improperly sized shoes or boots for an entire day can be quite a painful experience. Take the time to learn the basics of boot sizing so you’ll know how to pick a size that’s right for you.

5. The Proper Stance
Now that you know how to stay safe, are wearing the right clothes and have your equipment picked out, the next step in your preparation should be to practice adopting the right stance. Regardless of the type of cross-country skiing you choose, you’ll want to start off standing tall, then end up in an upright slouching position by deeply flexing your ankles. From here, you should bend from the ankles and not your hips, so your arms can swing freely forward and backward.

Your legs should be relaxed but active, loading up and then exploding forward during the kick and glide phases of the movement. You will notice that your core does a lot of work when you learn to cross -country ski because you will need to balance on one leg at a time, which requires a lot of stabilization.

There you have it! Armed with your newfound knowledge, it’s time for you to take off onto the trail. Remember these tips and your first cross-country skiing experience is sure to be a good one. To find the nearest cross-country ski trail to you, click here.

For all the know-how you’ll need when buying your first pair of cross-country skis, visit our Cross-Country Ski Gear Buying Guide, or if you want to browse our wide selection of affordable cross-country ski equipment, head over to the Cross-Country Ski Gear page.