Skate Skiing vs. Cross Country Skiing (Differences and Similarities)

Beginners who get into cross country skiing usually choose between classic and skate skiing styles. By understanding the differences and similarities, rookie skiers can pick the style that fits them the most.
Skate Skiing vs. Cross Country Skiing

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So you’ve taken an interest in cross country skiing! That’s great! It’s one of the best workouts you’ll ever get. But before getting into it, you first have to decide what style you’re going to learn.

Novice skiers have two options: classic or skate cross country skiing. Both are styles of cross country skiing. However, there are notable differences that make each style unique.

With this guide, you’ll see their differences and similarities.  You’ll learn which is harder, what’s a better workout, as well as the equipment needed. And in the end, you should be able to choose which style you’ll have more fun with.

What Is the Difference Between Cross Country Skiing and Skate Skiing?

The main difference between cross country skiing and skate skiing is the technique. Classic cross country skiing uses a technique more comparable to walking. Meanwhile, skate skiing uses a technique like skating or rollerblading.

Is Skate Skiing More Fun Than Classic Cross Country Skiing?

Fun is always subjective because of personal preferences, so it’s difficult to say which one is more fun. However, certain conditions can determine which can be more fun for you.

Skill Level

If you ask trainers, they recommend classic cross country skiing for beginners. The technique requires a shorter learning curve which can be more fun if you’re just starting.

However, it’s ok if you want to start with skate skiing. If you have ice skating or rollerblading experience, it’s the logical starting point. And if you prefer something more challenging, skate skiing might be more fun. 

Physical Endurance

Skate skiing’s technique is more physically demanding. If you’re not in great shape and a beginner, this might not be so fun for you. 

Environmental Conditions

Certain weather conditions can make one more fun than the other.

  • Skate skiing is more enjoyable with fresh, hard-packed snow and when the temperature isn’t too cold.
  • Classic skiing is more fun when it’s really cold and tracks are well-groomed. Skate skis have a harder time gliding when it gets too cold.

What Is Faster – Classic Cross Country Skiing or Skate Skiing?

Different factors can affect your speed when cross country skiing. Your skill level, physical conditioning, and terrain impact how fast you can go. But because classic cross country skiing is like walking, it’s the slower style. You go faster with skate skiing because you push off and glide. Plus, you use your poles to add to your propulsion and gain more speed.

How Much Faster Is Skate Skiing Than Classic Cross Country Skiing?

An average skier will go 11–16 kph (7–10 mph) for classic cross country skiing on flat terrain. Meanwhile, average skate skiers can go as fast as 24 kph (15 mph).

Skate Skiing vs. Cross Country Skiing Practice

There are a lot of similarities between the two styles when it comes to practice.

Both styles will require you to prepare your body. Whichever style you choose, you’ll need good endurance to enjoy the sport. So practicing cardiovascular exercises is a must.

Cross country skiing is also a total body workout that will work your legs, core, and upper body. So you’ll need to be in decent physical condition to take on the sport.

But skate skiing has one advantage over the classic style. You can practice skate skiing through rollerblading or ice skating during the summer. Because their movements are similar, you can practice your technique even without snow.

Is Skate Skiing Easier or Harder Than Classic Cross Country Skiing?

Generally, skate skiing is harder than classic cross country skiing. Even trainers will say the same thing. Skate skiing requires more balance at higher speeds. It also needs more power especially if you want to ride fast.

So if you have zero skiing experience, classic cross country skiing is a good place to start. This style is friendlier for beginners since it has a slower pace. It makes learning the technique easier, thus the shorter learning curve.

Skate Skiing vs. Cross Country Skiing Exercises?

Both styles need balance, coordination, endurance, and strength. This means you can practice the same exercises for both styles.

You can increase your power through strengthening exercises. It’s best to do compound exercises that target your major muscle groups.

You can improve your endurance through cardiovascular exercises. Cycling, running, and swimming are great exercises to do when you’re not skiing.

Meanwhile, practicing yoga will help you with your balance and coordination. Plyometric workouts are also a good alternative if you’re not into yoga.

What Is a Better Workout – Classic Cross Country Skiing or Skate Skiing?

Both styles are still considered a very good workout, especially compared to other sports. Cross country skiing is acknowledged as one of the most physically demanding workouts that you can do.

But when comparing the two styles, skate skiing is generally a more intense workout than classic skiing. You can go at faster speeds, which will require more power. And the more power you use, the more calories you burn. So in terms of calories that you can burn, skate skiing is a better workout.

Does Classic Cross Country Skiing or Skate Skiing Burn More Calories?

Skate skiing burns more calories than the classic style. If you want to look at the numbers, here’s how they stack up:

  • Classic cross country skiing: 460 calories per hour.
  • Skate skiing: 600 calories per hour.

These numbers are based on a slow to average pace for a 150 lb (68 kg) skier. Take note that other factors will affect how many calories you can burn. Age, body fat percentage, fitness level, and skill level also impact your caloric burn.

Which Is Better – Classic Cross Country Skiing or Skate Skiing?

Generally speaking, one style isn’t better than the other. What’s better for you may not be the same for another person. It all depends on personal preference, skill, and fitness level.

Both styles can still be challenging. Just ask anyone with no skiing experience who tried it for the first time.  But if you’re hoping to get a good workout, you won’t lose either way. They’re both great exercises that offer a lot of physical and mental benefits. At the end of the day, that’s better for you.

Should I Learn Classic Cross Country Skiing or Skate Skiing?

For beginners, ski trainers always recommend learning classic cross country skiing first. It has an easier technique with a shorter learning curve. It also has lower physical fitness requirements.

Once you’ve learned the fundamentals of the classic style, you can switch to skate skiing. It should then be easier to learn despite having a more difficult technique.

However, it’s not uncommon for beginners to start with skate skiing. If you’re looking for a more challenging technique and want to be able to ride faster, it’s the way to go.

Classic Cross Country Skiing vs. Skate Skiing Equipment?

Each style has its own equipment because of the difference in the mechanics. And the speed and terrain where you ski also impact the equipment you need.

Ski boots for classic cross country are shorter. It gives your foot more flexibility. This makes the shuffling or walking movement easier.

But for skate skiing, you need higher boots. They provide ankle support to give you more stability when you push off and glide.

For poles, those for skating are longer. They usually go as high as your nose from the ground. Meanwhile, classic poles are shorter, usually only until your shoulder.

Skis used also have different properties according to the cross country skiing style.

Are Skate Skis and Cross Country Skis the Same?

You need to use different skis for skate and classic cross country skiing. The skis for each style are designed according to their technique and movement.

Classic cross country skiing is done on tracks and that’s where skis will perform their best. This is quite the opposite of skate skiing where you can freestyle and go faster than classic skiing.

What Is the Difference Between Skate Skis and Classic Cross Country Skis?

Classic skis are thinner and longer.  They have two zones, the kick zone, and the glide zone.  They’re designed for groomed tracks and won’t perform well outside of it. They’re also lightweight and you can go fast when racing. But they’re also perfect for recreational cross country skiing.

As for skate skis, they’re shorter and stiffer. This makes them very responsive when pushing off, speeding, making turns, or braking. Skate skis only have a glide zone and no kick zone.

Can You Use Classic Cross Country Skis for Skate Skiing?

The classic technique doesn’t share the same movements as skate skiing. So you’ll find it difficult to skate ski using classic cross country skis. The classic skis aren’t engineered for the skating movements. They lack the properties you need to glide and ski at high speeds.

Can You Use Skate Skis for Classic Cross Country Skiing?

Since skate skis don’t have a kick zone, it’s not possible to use them for classic cross country skiing. They won’t be able to grip the snow to allow you to move forward using a striding technique.