January 31, 2011

Cross-country Skiing Basics

How to get started in Wisconsin’s most relaxing winter sport

How do you learn to love winter? Become a cross-country skier. Wisconsin is home to hundreds of outstanding cross-country ski trails, ranging from one-mile loops to 40-mile trail systems. The smooth, easy feeling of gliding through quiet forests and over snow-covered fields is an experience that is hard to describe to the uninitiated. Here’s some basic information about how to get started in the quietest of Wisconsin’s winter sports.

Skiing the northwoods!Classic Versus Skate
When you read about a particular trail or hear cross-country skiers talking, you’ll soon come across two important terms: skate and classic. These refer to the two main styles of cross-country skiing practiced in Wisconsin. Classic-style skiing involves skiing in two grooves carved in the snow by a special trail-grooming machine. Skate-style skiing is done on a smooth-groomed trail using a technique that looks a lot like ice skating.

Which Style to Choose?
While the techniques and equipment used in classic- and skate-style skiing are quite different, many trails in Wisconsin are groomed for both styles of skiing. Most newbie skiers tend toward the older classic-style skiing, which is, not surprisingly, also called traditional-style skiing. If you are someone who has done a great deal of rollerblading or ice skating, you might want to consider skate-style skiing. Both styles of skis and equipment are easy to find. Whichever style you choose, you’ll find hundreds of skiing opportunities in Wisconsin.

Now What Do I Do?
You have your skis. What happens next? You need to learn to use the things. Many cross-country skiers have learned the sport by simply putting on a pair of skis and going out and doing it. You will not become an expert by the end of your first outing, that’s for sure. But if you pay attention to what you’re doing, it won’t take long to see improvement. In the classic-skiing style, most people will quickly pick up the feel of how to shift their body weight and glide along the parallel tracks. And someone with experience in ice skating or rollerblading will have no trouble transferring these movements to their skate skiing. You’ll also find beginner ski classes, which can help to speed up the learning process. But you won’t learn to ski from reading an article like this – you have to go out and do it.

SkisWhere Do I Go?
Finding a trail is easy in Wisconsin. Many trails are groomed for both classic- and skate-style skiing, while some will be groomed for just one of the two styles. And nearly every trail you encounter will have information available about the ability level to which the trail is suited. The most common labels are beginner, intermediate and advanced. These terms are pretty much what they sound like. Beginner trails are relatively flat and should be the first place you should try out your new pair of skis. There are an abundance of beginner trails, and many of them are the most beautiful in Wisconsin. Intermediate trails are a step up, and generally involve some hills and inclines. Advanced trails are challenging, with many hills, twists and turns. Don’t attempt these trails unless you are an expert skier or a masochist.

Addiction Warning
Cross-country skiing is addicting. Once you master the skiing techniques, your outings will become more focused on scenic beauty, wildlife encounters and the joy of moving through a snow-covered landscape. You’ll come to appreciate the many moods of winter. The amount of snowfall, the texture of snow and the length of the winter season will all become vitally important to you. All winter long, you will dream of skiing. And during the summer, you might even long for winter. It’s all part of the addiction. So, before you put on your first ski boot, remember – you might just get hooked.

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