Training

Equipment

To participate in the sport of cross-country skiing, you need to either purchase or rent equipment. Nordic equipment is not cheap, but it is a lot less expensive than that used for downhill skiing. You can outfit yourself for skiing for less than $200, the price of some "starter" packages offered in sporting good stores. "If you expect to stay with the sport, however, you should spend more and obtain better gear," says J. V. Peacock, owner of The Outpost in Mishawaka, Indiana. Getting top-of-the-line equipment could double your cost, admits Peacock. Here's what you need:

Skis: Cross-country skis are skinnier than their downhill counterparts and considerably lighter. And also less expensive; a downhill skier would spend $500 for the starter package mentioned above. They also come in a variety of designs depending on the type of skiing you plan to do: in-track (classic) skiing or skating. (See: The Two Techniques.) Skaters use skis that are short and flat, better for their sideways strides. Classic skiers use cambered skis, bowed in the middle, so that when you weight one ski it grabs the snow, allowing you to push off into the next stride. Veteran skiers wax their skis to get more grip and push, but as a beginning skier, you're probably better off choosing "waxless" skis, grooved on the bottoms in various patterns to achieve the same effect as wax.

Boots: Cross-country boots serve two important functions. One, they keep your feet dry and warm. Two, they provide a system that connects the boot to the ski. Ski boot designers have made tremendous improvements in their models in recent years. Most better boots have inner linings that will keep your feet snug on even the coldest days. And the best ones fit as comfortably as running shoes. Cross-country ski boots connect to the skis only at the toes, which allows the heel to rise off the ski so you can extend your glide. Grooves on the bottoms of the boots fit over ridges on the binding to permit better control in curves. To insure that you will enjoy this sport, be willing to spend a bit more money on a good pair of boots.

Poles: Downhill skiers use poles for balance, but cross-country skiers also use poles to propel themselves down the trails. If you want to become a complete skier, you need to use your upper body muscles as well as your legs. Aluminum poles are cheapest, but various fiberglass poles are lighter, although they're also more expensive. If you're skiing in a 55-K race like the Birkebeiner, you'll need light poles to avoid end-of-the-race fatigue. For the average beginner, a few extra ounces of weight probably makes little difference.

Don't rush to the sporting good store and outfit yourself in equipment before taking your first glide on snow. You will be able to make more intelligent equipment choices after skiing a few times in rental equipment and seeing what other skiers use. Most Nordic Centers provide rental equipment.

While buying ski-specific equipment, don't overlook your clothing needs. Cross-country skiers from an earlier generation wore knickers and long socks plus wool sweaters. You're more liable to see skiers today clad in various synthetic materials that wick moisture away from their bodies. Skiers layer their clothing, adding or shedding layers as temperatures drop or rise. In this respect, they function like runners in winter, except runners copied the skier's attire. Most important on cold days are a knit cap to prevent heat from escaping the body and mittens, rather than fingered gloves, to keep your hands warm.

Getting Started Ski Technique In Full Stride
Introduction Moving Forward Destinations
Conditioning Going Uphill Racing
Equipment Going downhill Nutrition
Where to Ski Turning Snowshoes
Two Techniques Stopping Downhill Skiing