What Is Nordic Skiing (The Complete Guide to the Northern Skiing)?

With Nordic skiing, you get to ski on flat surfaces, go uphill or downhill, and explore different terrains. It’s been around for ages and is one of the most popular winter sports in Europe. Widely known as a high endurance workout, it’s a sport that anyone can get into.
What Is Nordic Skiing

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Nordic skiing has been around for ages. What started as a means of moving across the snow-covered land has evolved into a sport that people of any age can get into. But before you jump into your ski boots and take this on, there’s a lot you need to understand about Nordic skiing.

Many people use cross-country skiing to mean Nordic skiing, however, they’re not exactly the same. There are different Nordic skiing types and styles. The equipment and gear also differ. To give you a better understanding of the unique characteristics, here’s everything you need to know about Nordic skiing.

Why Is It Called Nordic Skiing?

Nordic skiing got its name from the area where it was invented. The first ski bindings in history were created in the Telemark region in Norway.

Skis were used as a means of transportation and mobility thousands of years ago. Hunters, farmers, and warriors used them to move on the snow with ease. Eventually, the first cambered skis were introduced in the 1800s in Norway.

And Nordic skiing is considered skiing’s original form. Its defining characteristic is that only the ski boot’s toe is attached to the binding, leaving the heel free. This free-heel setup allows you to walk or run with your skis on. Thus, making it possible to travel or explore while wearing skis.

What Is Another Name for Nordic Skiing?

Nordic skiing is also called cross-country skiing. But despite being used interchangeably, they’re not quite the same thing. Cross-country skiing is actually a Nordic skiing discipline.

To give you a better idea, here are the three different Nordic skiing disciplines:

  • Cross-country: It’s skiing in its most freestyle form. You can ski on groomed or backcountry terrain. Going off-track is what makes it appealing and exciting for many skiers as it becomes a more adventurous experience.

Under cross-country skiing, there are three styles: classic, skate, and light touring. Classic is done on the tracks and is the most popular among the three. Skate skiing has movements similar to ice skating and requires more effort. Light touring is off-piste skiing on ungroomed terrain.

  • Telemark: It’s a combination of cross-country and Alpine skiing. You still have a free-heel system but the boots are larger and more rigid like the ones used in Alpine skiing. You can still go off track and ski downhill with this style.
  • Alpine Touring: There’s a lot of backcountry exploring here, especially in very beautiful and remote areas. This makes it very popular among adventurers and mountaineers. Because there’s plenty of exploration to be done, Alpine Touring skis are harder, stronger, but lighter than the standard cross-country skis.

Where Does Nordic Skiing Come From?

Nordic skiing originated in Norway. The country, as well as its neighbors Sweden and France, is known for its long, bitter, and intense winter season. This makes snow transportation and mobility equipment like skis an essential part of people’s daily routine.

When Was Nordic Skiing Invented?

Historians peg the birth of cross-country skiing around 5,000 years ago but it was around the 1800s that Nordic skiing became a common way to travel on the snow. It evolved from a means of transportation to becoming a sport when the first public competition on record was held in 1843 in Tromsø, Norway.

Who Invented Nordic Skiing?

Mythologies and ancient lore aside, the people of the Telemark region in Norway are largely credited for inventing Nordic skiing. But to be specific, historians believe that it was Sondre Norheim, also from Telemark, who invented the first ski bindings that allowed him to move and jump without his skis falling off.

He’s also recognized for inventing the Telemark ski which is the basis of today’s ski designs. He later on became a ski athlete, known for his ski jumping and quick turns that would revolutionize the sport.

What Is Nordic Skiing Today?

Today, Nordic skiing’s most popular form is cross-country skiing, particularly classic cross-country. It’s like running on snow but with skis on. It’s done on groomed tracks which make it easy to learn and for anyone to enjoy. You can also go off-trail and explore the wilderness but you need to be physically fit to do so.

Skate skiing is another popular form. It’s also done on groomed trails but instead of movements similar to running, your movements are similar to ice skating. Compared to classic skiing, it takes more effort and strength.

In the modern Winter Olympic events, cross-country skiing and Nordic combined skiing are the two Nordic skiing disciplines included. Nordic combined is a combination of cross-country skiing and ski jumping. Currently, only men compete in this category.

Is Nordic Skiing Popular?

Nordic skiing, particularly cross-country skiing, is popular especially in many European countries and in North America. One reason why it’s popular is that it’s easy to learn, so anyone at any age can enjoy the sport.

How Popular Is Nordic Skiing?

Nordic skiing is one of the most popular pastimes in Europe. You’ll find skiers of every age, shape, and size riding on the tracks. Outside of Europe, the US has seen an increase in Nordic skiing activities.

Where Is Nordic Skiing Popular?

Nordic skiing is popular in Norway, Sweden, France, Finland, Germany, Russia, Canada, and the USA. The Nordic region’s winter weather gives it the perfect condition and environment for Nordic skiing.

So it’s no surprise that Norway dominates in Olympic competition. The country won half of all the available medals for cross-country skiing in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Why Do People Like Nordic Skiing?

There are different reasons why people like Nordic skiing. Aside from being really fun, it has physical and mental benefits. Here are the most notable ones:

  • It’s a great workout: Nordic skiing is a total body workout that burns a lot of calories and works all your major muscle groups. If you love working out, you’ll get a kick out of this sport.
  • It improves cardiovascular health: If you want to improve your heart health and endurance levels, Nordic skiing will push you hard but will reward you with a strong cardiovascular system.
  • Peace and tranquility: Skiing in peaceful and remote backcountry terrains has a calming effect on one’s mind and emotions. This experience can help reduce stress and anxiety and put you in a better mood and mental state.
  • No lines: Because you’re in backcountry territory, you won’t have to line up just to enjoy the tracks. This time, you have the terrain all to yourself.
  • It’s also a social activity: But you don’t always have to ski on your own. Taking a cross-country hike and exploring the wilderness while skiing is a great way to have fun with your friends.

What Equipment Is Needed for Nordic Skiing?

The basic Nordic skiing equipment that you’ll need are skis, boots, and poles. The ski will vary depending on the Nordic skiing type you’ll be going for. The same goes for the boots since classic and skating have different boot requirements.

Aside from equipment, you’ll also need to wear the proper gear. You use every part of your body in Nordic skiing. This means thick and puffy winter jackets are out since they can restrict movement and can cause your body to overheat. Instead, you need lightweight and breathable layers that give more freedom of movement while allowing your body to release heat and cool down.

What Are the Different Types of Nordic Skis?

There are two ski types in Nordic skiing: classic and skate skis. Classic skis are used for standard cross-country skiing while skate skis are for skate skiing.

For classic skis, three ski types fall under this category:

  • Touring skis: These are made specifically for groomed trails. The long and narrow skis are designed for the forward and backward strides.
  • Performance skis: Similar to touring skis but these are made for the speed and aggression needed in skiing competitions.
  • Metal-edge touring skis: For off-track and backcountry terrains, these skis are shorter and wider to provide more stability on deep snow.

Meanwhile, skate skis are lighter than classic skis and are made for speed. They’re designed specifically for ice skating movements and for a more stable ride on hard, compact snow.

Is Nordic Skiing the Same as Skate Skiing?

Classic cross-country skiing is different from skate skiing. While they are both classified as a type of Nordic skiing, they have different mechanics, techniques, and equipment.

Classic cross-country skiing mimics the movement of walking or running. You move your legs forward, usually on a groomed track, for you to accelerate and gain speed.

Skate skiing is more similar to ice skating where you slide your legs laterally and combine it with using your poles to move forward on a harder surface. It’s more physically strenuous and needs more total body strength and coordination.

Also, the trails for skate skiing are wider since it requires more space for you to move. Trails must have hard and compact snow to allow you to skate without sinking on the snow. This makes it impossible to go off-piste since you’re not sure what kind of snow you’re going to get.

Can You Nordic Ski With Skate Skis?

Skate skiing is one of the cross-country skiing styles. And with cross-country skiing being one of the Nordic skiing disciplines, it’s possible to Nordic ski with skate skis. You can do this on trails groomed specifically for skate skiing.

The skis used are shorter in size compared to classic cross-country skis. They’re also lighter, thinner, and stiffer.

How Do You Fit Nordic Skis?

To get the right Nordic ski size, you need to do a little calculating using your height as a reference point. Generally, classic cross-country skis are longer than skate skis.

It’s important to be as accurate as possible when getting your skis. Getting the wrong size will affect your movement and mobility on the snow so your skiing experience won’t be as great as you want it to be.

How Long Should My Nordic Skis Be?

The formula below is generally followed to get the ideal Nordic ski length for adults:

  • For classic cross-country: Height (cm) + 20 to 30cm = ski length
  • For skate skis: Height (cm) + 10 to 15cm = ski length

For kids’ ski sizes, you follow a different rule:

  • For classic cross-country: Height (cm) +10 cm = ski length for beginners; Height (cm) + 10 to 20 cm = ski length for advanced level.
  • For skate skis: Height (cm) – 5 to 10 cm = ski length for beginners; Height (cm) + 5 to 10 cm = ski length for advanced level.

How Fast Do Nordic Skiers Go?

The average speed for recreational Nordic skiing is 7 to 10mph while professional racers can reach an average speed of 15mph. As for the top speed, pro racers can go as fast as 25mph on a flat surface and 40mph downhill.

How Fast Do Olympic Nordic Skiers Go?

In the Olympics, Nordic skiers can ride extremely fast downhill. The long training hours and their physical conditioning allow them to ride at high speeds. The average speed on record is 80mph, with some reaching 95mph at certain sections of the course.

But the fastest speed recorded was by Austria’s Klaus Kroell in 2006, who set an Olympic record of 96.6mph.

What Is a Good Pace for Nordic Skiing?

A good place for Nordic skiing depends on your skill level. Beginners are advised to learn from the pros, so this makes Nordic skiing training centers or cross-country resorts the best places to Nordic ski. These places have groomed trails which make it easier for you to learn, as fast as possible.

Cross-country skiers with intermediate or advanced skill levels who are confident enough to venture out on their own can go off-piste. They can explore and ski on flat surfaces, uphill or downhill.

For skate skiing, you can only do this on groomed trails with hard and compact snow. This means you’ll have to skate ski at cross-country skiing resorts as well. Doing a simple online search can lead you to the best cross-country ski resorts all over the world.