Is Cross Country Skiing Easy or Hard to Learn (and How Do I Learn It)?

Cross country skiing is one of the easiest winter sports to learn. Anyone, regardless of age, can get into it. But despite this, it still has its challenges, especially if you want to take it seriously.
Is Cross Country Skiing Easy or Hard to Learn?

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Cross country skiing is a fun winter sport that’s very accessible even for beginners. Kids or adults with no skiing experience can find themselves enjoying the tracks after a few days. It can be easy to learn and all you need is some patience and lots of effort.

The sport is gaining popularity, but don’t think that’s all there is to it. You can ski just for fun and have a chill ride, but if you find yourself wanting to be serious about cross country skiing, it’s going to take some hard work too.

So if you want to get into cross country skiing, here’s what you need to know to learn this fun and challenging winter sport.

Is Cross Country Skiing Difficult?

Cross country skiing is considered one of the toughest endurance sports in the world. If you’re aiming to be competitive, it will be an even more difficult sport to master. However, if you’re just in it for fun and recreation, it won’t be as tough. But either way, you still need to dedicate time and effort to learn and have enough discipline to keep your body in good shape.

How Difficult Is Cross Country Skiing to Learn?

Notorious as cross country is for being a killer full-body and endurance workout, it’s not that difficult to learn. Anyone, even kids,  can get into cross country skiing, as long as they’re physically fit.

You can learn from watching online tutorials or enrolling in cross country training classes. The classic cross country style is much easier to learn given its less complex movements. Meanwhile, the skate skiing style has a steeper learning curve.

However, how easy or difficult it is to learn still depends on your fitness level, equipment, and learning ability.

Why Is Cross Country Skiing So Hard?

But just because it’s generally easy to learn means you’ll be able to cross country ski in no time. What can make it difficult are the physical effort, balance, coordination, and conditioning needed to get yourself moving on the trail. By just being decent in these aspects, you’ll be able to ski faster and for long stretches without tiring easily.

But if you want to be really good at it, you’ll need regular training and be able to keep your body in top form. This is what can make it hard. Skiing for long distances is no joke and will require a lot of strength and endurance. You’ll also need lots of time to practice to have good form and technique.

Is Cross Country Skiing Easier Than Regular Skiing?

In some ways, cross country skiing is easier than regular or downhill skiing. It’s easier because of the following:

  • You can cross country ski on flat terrain which is easier especially for beginners. For regular skiing, it’s always downhill and you’ll need to master controlling your descent.
  • You’re using heel-free skis. This makes it easier to move and gives you more balance versus regular skis that completely bind your foot.
  • You can relax. As mentioned above, you can go for a chill ski ride and take breaks whenever you want. On the other hand, regular skiing is all about speed.

But in other ways, it’s more difficult than regular skiing because:

  • You can ski anywhere. This includes going uphill where you don’t have the benefit of a ski lift.
  • You use your whole body. Cross country skiing is a full-body workout and tests your strength and endurance.
  • The technique is more complex. You don’t have the benefit of gravity to give you momentum. You need to create your own locomotion.

How Do You Start Cross Country Skiing?

Before you start cross country skiing, you need to know the equipment, get your body ready and familiarize yourself with the movements.

Know The Equipment

Classic cross country skiing requires different skis from other styles. So before anything else, you need to know your gear. Classic skis are generally longer and narrower. As a beginner, it’s also recommended that you borrow or rent your ski equipment first. This way, you can test which brands you like and you don’t end up with buyer’s remorse.

Prepare Your Body

By now, you already have an idea of how grueling cross country skiing can be. Preparing your body will help you have a more enjoyable experience. You don’t need to be in Olympic form, but a decent fitness level will allow you to have a fun ride at the least. Exercise, get your cardio levels up, and wear the proper gear to keep yourself comfortable in the cold weather. 

Practice The Movements

Whether you’re going to learn it on your own or train under a professional, it’s best to practice the movements before your actual skiing experience. Watching videos will give you an idea of the slide and glide movements you need to master.

Can a Beginner Cross Country Ski?

Got no cross country experience? That’s not going to be a problem. Classic cross country skiing is the friendliest style for beginners. Kids to adults can get into it even with zero experience. It’s a fun winter activity that you can enjoy at any level.

Is Cross Country Skiing Good for Beginners?

Aside from the fun factor, cross country skiing is good for beginners because you can learn at your own pace. The learning curve isn’t as steep compared to the cross country skating style. And compared to downhill skiing, you choose how fast you want to go. Beginners can take it easy and still have fun.

Being able to ski on flat terrains is also another reason it’s friendly to beginners. Going uphill or downhill can be intimidating but you don’t need to take them on until you’re ready.

Is Cross Country Skiing Hard for Beginners?

Cross country skiing is easy to learn but it can still be hard for some beginners. The skiing movements aren’t natural as compared to running, so it will take some practice when you’re still learning.

But what can make it more challenging is the workout you’ll be getting. Cross country skiing is a full-body workout that engages all your major muscle groups. If your physical fitness level isn’t that good, you may find yourself getting tired easily and aching all over after a few sessions.

However, you can avoid this by exercising and working out during the months leading to your skiing trip.

Can You Learn to Cross Country Ski as an Adult?

As an adult, you can learn to cross country by teaching yourself or getting lessons from a professional. You can look for online tutorials and study the safety protocols, and basic techniques. You should also research locations, gear prices, and other important information.

But if you’re more confident with someone guiding you along the way, taking lessons is the way to go. Experts recommend this for beginners over self-learning. An alternative is tagging along with your friends already adept in cross country skiing and having them teach you.

How Do You Cross Country Ski for the First Time?

As a beginner, some of the fundamental techniques you need to learn are the following: the athletic stance, maintaining balance, moving with your skis on, and using your poles.

Athletic Stance

Your feet should always be shoulder-width apart with your knees slightly bent. This position gives you the most balance with your skis on.

Maintaining Balance

You’ll need good balance on one leg as well as on two legs. Practice by lifting one foot and shifting your weight from one leg to the other. You should keep your athletic stance on one leg each time.

Moving With Skis

With your skis on, get on the tracks and get your rhythm by slowly shuffling your feet. It’s like walking but you slide your foot forward instead of lifting it to take a step. Take it slow and once you get comfortable, start taking a longer shuffle by gliding on one leg before shuffling the other leg forward.

Using Your Poles

Skiing without poles gives you better balance. It should be easier to keep your balance now that you’ll start using poles. Hold your poles forward with your elbows at a 90° angle. The tips should be lifted off the ground.

As you shuffle and glide, strike the pole to the ground and use it to push your body forward. Do this on the arm opposite the gliding leg. Repeat on the other side.

How to Train Cross Country Skiing?

Training for cross country skiing means improving your strength and endurance levels.  It often involves working out at the gym and increasing your endurance through various activities.

You should also pair training with a healthy diet. This ensures you fuel your body with the nutrition it needs so you can be in tip-top shape. And getting enough rest is just as important as the workout you put in.

Do You Need Lessons for Cross Country Skiing?

If you’re a beginner, it’s highly recommended that you take cross country skiing lessons. While it’s possible to learn it on your own, having a professional trainer has its upsides.

You have someone to teach you about safety protocols, etiquette, and basic techniques. This can make it easier for you to learn the sport. Also, experts can give you important tips on how you can prevent injuries on and off the tracks.

Where Can I Learn to Cross Country Ski?

You can take courses in cross country ski schools at parks or resorts. You can book a private class or take it with a group.

Private lessons can be done one-on-one or with your family and friends. Then there are public group lessons which is a great way to make new friends!

Can I Learn Cross Country Skiing on My Own?

If you don’t want to spend on lessons and you have some skiing experience, you can opt to learn cross country on your own. You can check online resources for the different tips and techniques you need to learn.

If you have friends who already know how to cross country ski, you can learn from them as well. If self-learning is your preferred option, be sure to familiarize yourself with the different safety guidelines and skiing etiquettes so you can have a safe and fun experience.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Cross Country Skiing?

On average, you can learn to cross country ski in several days, with at least five days of 4-hour sessions. And that’s with lessons from a professional. You can typically go from being a beginner to an intermediate skier within a week.

But this is still determined by how fast you learn. Some may take longer to get the basics down. If you’re learning on your own, it might take you longer as well. Other factors that can affect how fast you learn are your fitness level, gear, and training conditions.

How Can I Get Better at Cross Country Skiing?

As a beginner, the only way to get better is to keep practicing. One mistake that beginners make is that they stop practicing or don’t keep themselves fit after learning the basics. So the next time they ski, they’re back to square one.

Since it’s a learned skill, you need to put in the time and effort to practice and hone your skills. Keeping yourself fit is another important aspect of getting better at the sport.

How Do Cross Country Skiers Train?

Cross country skiers train during the summer and reap the rewards during winter. Dedicated skiers keep their bodies in top form by hitting the gym, cross-training, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

They also ski a lot during the winter. That’s when they practice and improve their form and technique. With a stronger body and a high level of muscle and aerobic endurance, they’re able to keep their conditioning all year round.

How Much Do Cross Country Skiers Train?

Professional skiers train at an average of 70 hours a month, with roughly 15 hours of training for each week. This includes strength training, interval endurance training, and cross-training during the non-winter months.

Then there’s skiing practice come winter season. High-level skiers train 4 to 6 hours a day on average, often covering a 60 km (37.3 mi) distance. This keeps them in form and ready to compete.

Recreational or non-professionals don’t train this much. But they still put in hours on the tracks to train during the summer to keep themselves in good shape.

What Do Cross Country Skiers Do in the Summer?

Skiers keep their form thanks to summer training. During this off-season, skiers take on “dryland training.” You might know it as strength and conditioning training. This maintains or improves physical strength, cardio and muscular endurance, balance, flexibility, and overall performance.

How Do You Train for Cross Country Skiing in the Summer?

Dryland training involves alternative sports and hitting the gym for regular strength and conditioning workouts. Some of the most common activities that skiers engage in are:


Running is one of the best endurance exercises that benefit skiers. It keeps their cardio levels up and it’s convenient since you can run anywhere. An alternative closer to skiing is pole running. It’s basically running with poles but this is done on uphill terrains.

Roller Skiing or Nordic Blading

Whichever you prefer, this allows skiers to maintain their rhythm during the summer. Since cross country skiing’s movements aren’t natural, repetition leads to muscle memory. Skiing movements will become second nature all year round.

Ski Machines

If you don’t fancy roller skiing or nordic blading, using ski machines is the next best thing to actual skiing. This specialized equipment works like an elliptical machine and mimics cross country skiing movements.

Strength Training

Skiers build their strength during the summer. Workouts focus on developing full-body strength and power, especially core strength.

Yoga and Stretching

Strength and endurance are useless if you have poor coordination, mobility, and flexibility. Yoga and other stretching exercises target these attributes. It also helps with proper form and injury prevention.