Nordic Ski Colorado - The official cross-country ski guide
Article: Introduction ... Get Started With A Few Definitions
By Cindy Kleh / Photo by Carter Photographics
cross country skiing at a Nordic center
Skate skiers use the open groomed surface, while Classic skiers use the groomed set tracks that follow the edge of the trails.

There’s a lot of different kinds of Nordic skiing styles and equipment out there. Which one to use depends on where you want to ski. Are there groomed tracks available? Maybe you’d rather make your own tracks or venture into the backcountry. And what equipment suits the terrain you’ll likely encounter?

If it’s been a while since you’ve been on Nordic skis, be ready for some changes … for the better. Today’s equipment is much easier to learn on, and Nordic centers are producing perfectly groomed trails that ensure a safe, hassle-free and fun cross-country experience.

Skiing on Groomed Trails
Much like downhill ski resorts, Nordic centers use specialized machines to groom the snow on the trails, usually leaving flat corduroy on one side for skate skiing and two inset tracks for classic-style skiing on the other side.

Cross-country skiing has two styles that require slightly different equipment but basically feature an attachment of the boot to the ski at the toe, leaving the back heel free to lift during the push-off.

Classic Style (AKA Traditional or Diagonal) uses a straight-ahead glide to propel the skier forward along a groomed track with dual grooves that help guide the skis and keep them inline. Classic skis are a little longer and softer, and the boots are more like shoes.

Skate Skiing Style (AKA Freestyle) uses the inner edges of the ski much like ice skates to push off and glide along a flat groomed surface, leaving a V-shaped track. Skate skiers use longer poles than those used for Classic Style, as well as shorter, stiffer skis and taller, stiffer boots.

Ski Touring
Sometimes it’s more convenient and/or more exciting to explore beyond the groomed trails. Light Touring means using skis that are a little wider with a Classic-style technique to ski right from your back porch or car and make your own tracks. Sometimes light touring can mean skiing in the tracks of a previous skier or on a packed-down trail at a National Park.

Because of the added difficulty of gliding through deep snow or without a smooth track to guide the ski and accentuate the glide, novice skiers are usually better off perfecting their technique and balancing skills at a Nordic center before venturing into the untracked.

More experienced touring skiers often set out on well-planned forages into the backcountry using removable skins on the ski bases to grip during climbs, and metal edges for better control during the descent using telemark turns.

Some backcountry skiers use Alpine Touring or Randonée bindings that feature a free heel during the climb and a locked-down heel during the descent, allowing for alpine turns.

<< Go back to articles in the Getting Started XC Skiing section >>

 

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