What’s the Difference Between Cross Country Skiing and Skate Skiing?

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Cross country skiing is both an ancient relic and cutting edge sport. Early skis dating back to 4500 AD and rock drawings in Northern Scandinavia give insight to the beginnings of cross country skiing and its practical transportation and hunting applications. Flash forward to the 21st century and cross country skiing is a highly competitive sport with some of the best athletes in the world competing in its 6 Olympic events (not including biathlon or Nordic combined, which both incorporate cross country skiing). Many others around the world cross country ski recreationally for fitness and fun in the winter. Some can’t get enough of it and ride rollers (short skis on wheels) to train and “ski” all summer as well.

However, many people aren’t familiar with this sport or don’t quite understand its intricacies. Despite being a wonderful pastime and, I would argue, the best way to realize what fitness really is (and that you don’t possess it), cross-country skiing is often overlooked.

“Skate” skiing is actually a type of cross-country skiing. The other type is called “classic” skiing. Both skate and classic are done on groomed cross-country tracks, but they require different motions and gear.

Skate Skiing - OutThere Colorado

Skate skiing is a side-to-side motion, like a gliding duck walk over a groomed corduroy track. When skating, skiers use shorter skis and poles than classic skiing. Skate skis are smooth on the bottom and skiers use a thin coat of wax to help them glide better in different snow conditions.

Classic Cross Country Skiing Technique - OutThere Colorado

Classic skiing, on the other hand, incorporates a completely different motion. Classic skiers propel themselves forward with a striding motion in which the opposite leg and arm always move together. Classic skis should not be able to slide backwards. Therefore, some skis have fish scales on the base, but most classic skiers use kick wax on smooth-based skis to prevent backwards sliding.

Cross country skiing is a great way to slide around on snow and get a workout while doing so. Whether you choose skate, classic or both, get ready to explore the mountains in a fun and (literally) breathtaking way. You never know, you may even enter a race one day!

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