Why learn cross-country skiiing?

Why learn cross-country skiiing?
February 2, 2018 - SHARE:
Interview: Julien ski instructor from the ESF

Let’s take a look at this discipline, the different techniques and the rules on the slopes!

How would you like to ski surrounded by all nature’s beauty, discover seemingly secret places… we recommend cross-country skiing.

We convinced Cécile and Audrey, Alpine ski and snowboard enthusiasts, to try out cross-country skiing. It’s off to the plateau des Confins, part of the Clusaz domain in France. They tell us about their experience:
“On arriving we’re simply stunned by the landscape. Not a sound, the nature that surrounds us we have all to ourselves.
For this our first time we’re accompanied by Juju, ski instructor from the ESF at Confins. He started cross-country skiing very young, at about 2 and a half years old. As a child, he went out attached to his dad for 30-kilometre jaunts through the countryside!”

Here’s what Juju had to say in response to our questions:

Why take-up cross-country skiing?
“- To be more in touch with nature. After your first outing, you won’t forget your camera again. Cross-country skiing is ideal for discovering hidden parts of the countryside.
– No more standing in line at the ski lifts and waiting around in the cold.
– It’s more peaceful, there are far fewer risks with other skiers than with Alpine skiing, the numbers just aren’t the same.
– For your health: it’s a very comprehensive endurance sport, great for your cardio-vascular system. It will also help to tone-up and hone your figure!
– Finally, for your wallet: the investment is far more economic. When you buy a ski-pass, it’s that much cheaper because in cross-country skiing we don’t need to use ski-lifts, only our arms and legs! Sometimes, you’ll even find free circuits. For renting equipment too, it’s not as expensive as for Alpine skiing.”

To what kind of public is this sport adapted?
“This sport is adapted to any age. You can start at about 2 and half years old, it’s really good for balance and means that you’re well prepared. For a child it can be a good way to start before beginning Alpine skiing for example.”

Is it necessary to take lessons?
“For a good start, we advise it yes. Even if cross-country skiing is a sport that’s easily adaptable to everyone, there are a number of technical points to learn. Balance is more complicated than with Alpine skiing, even at standstill! If you’re already an adept of Alpine skiing, then after 2 hours’ worth of lessons you’ll be more or less able to find your balance and take-off for some fun on the green slopes.”

What equipment do you need?
“To make sure you’re comfortable, it’s best to wear close fitting gear. Unlike with Alpine skiing, you won’t get cold as you’ll be using constant physical effort. You’ll probably get quite thirsty though, make sure you have a small flask of water on your back or clipped to your waist. A little snack’s a good idea too.”

copyright : Atomic
copyright : Atomic
copyright : Atomic

Which technique to choose, the skating or the classic?

We went to the Chalet Nordic, a rental store specialising in Nordic equipment, to choose our material. After discussing it with Juju, we decide to begin with the skating technique. For Juju one technique is no easier than the other. Even at an advanced level, these 2 techniques require just as much effort.

Juju explains the difference to us:
The “classic” or diagonal stride technique is practiced with traditional skis of which the central part is waxed or covered in a synthetic skin for grip. You follow the trail on the tracks, which can take away a certain degree of freedom.

Why is it called diagonal stride?
“It’s because your arms and legs move in opposition, much the same way as when you walk or run”

The skating technique
“It’s named like this because it’s practiced with smooth skis, without gripping wax, to enable the best slide over the entire length. It’s much like ice-skating or roller-skating!

Each of these techniques use different steps that need to be employed on the flat, when climbing or on the downhill slopes.”

What type of equipment to choose?

Once you’ve chosen your discipline, the renter will advise you according to your size. When you’re a beginner, in general, the skis should be just a little longer than your height and the poles, much longer than for Alpine skiing, should come up to your shoulders.
In order to choose the right rental store, the MySkirent community can advise you on the best address depending on your ski resort.

How to get your bearings on the slopes?

“For cross-country skiing it’s the same system as for Alpine skiing. You’ll find the colour codes that indicate the difficulty of a trail on the map and along the pistes. Difficulty is assessed according to the incline. At all intersections or beginning of a piste you’ll find the name and the difficulty indicated. Bear in mind, to make sure you’re heading in the right direction, the coloured stakes should be on the right-hand side.”

With regards to the regulations, we’ve summarised for you the rules defined by the international ski federation (FIS).

Respect for signs: on the trails/pistes, the skier shall proceed only in the direction indicated and ski in the indicated running style.

Choice of trails and tracks: on cross-country trails with more than one packed track, a skier should choose the right-hand track. Skiers in groups must keep behind each other on the right-hand side.

Overtaking: a skier is permitted to overtake and pass another skier to the left or right, but always without causing risk to another.

Encounter: cross-country skiers meeting while skiing in opposing directions shall keep to their right. A descending skier has priority.

Poles: a cross-country skier shall make the utmost effort to keep their poles close to their body whenever near another skier.

Control of speed: a cross-country skier, especially when going downhill, shall always adapt their speed to their personal ability and to the prevailing terrain and visibility and to the traffic on the piste. Every skier should keep a safe distance from the skiers ahead.

Stopping: a skier who stops must leave the trail. In case of a fall, he/she shall clear the trail without delay.

After going back and forth a few times on the flat, Juju takes us to practice a little climbing and downhill on the green pistes, we already feel as though we have a special rapport with the surrounding countryside.

At the end of our lesson, we’re breathless but delighted at having discovered this new skiing discipline. We go home with our heads full of images, soothed, and eager to repeat the experience and discover new places.

So, are you tempted? All you need to know now is where to practice this sport. In a coming article we’ll let you know where to find the most beautiful plateaux in Europe.

In the meantime, why not follow the advice of the MySkirent community to find the best store for rental.

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