AKA Nordic Skiing, XC Skiing, Uphill Skiing, and REAL Skiing


Cross country skiing, known to be at least 4000 years old, is thought to be developed out of necessity, as it rose from a region of the world were there is deep snow cover for more than half the year. The Sami of northern Norway, Sweden and Finland utilized the skis for hunting and mobility. Through contact with Vikings, the Sami spread the method throughout Scandinavia. Further proving this migration, the word ski comes from the old Norse word Skith, meaning stick of wood. Although developed early, it is thought that due to necessity of survival, competitions and recreation on ski wasn’t practiced until much later.
Several kings around 1000 AD were avid skiers. Olav I (Olav Tryggvason), Norway’s first king, and Harold Hardråde, a Viking King (Vi-King) were two accomplished sportsmen who excelled in the sport. Races and rivalries grew from the Kings and those around them. King Harold was quite bold, and proclaimed himself to be unequaled on skis. He was subsequently challenged by a much younger man named Heming. It is said that Heming performed the upset and known that he could match the King.

In 1206 King Håkon of Norway sent two of his birkebeinerne (ski mounted officials "birkebeiner" translates to bark legs, relating to the strips of bark that were used to help keep their lower legs warm while skiing), Torstein Skjeva and Skjevald Skrukka, to ski (and perhaps to fight) their way from Lillehammer to Østredalen while carrying the two year old son of the king, Håkon Håkonsson. The son of King Håkon was targeted by tribal leaders in Norway, for the King was trying to unify the region against their wishes. The two were successful and the boy grew up to become the King of Norway. Under his rule, Norway gained much land.

There is written evidence of skiing competitions as early as 1767, in Norway. These races consisted of members of the military who were part of the “ski company.” These competitions were intense, often including shooting (Skiskyting / Biathlon) and downhill. The prize for winning was quite significant, especially for a underpaid military man. The races were quite different from now, there were no groomed tracks, skis were non-specialized (the skis were used for everything from downhill to jumping), and two poles weren’t used until 1850 (racers used a single pole like a kayak paddle. These are still sometimes used by venerable telemarkers.) Skiing eventually grew in popularity and spread to the world.

As recently as 20 years ago, cross country skiing was only a single technique, the diagonal stride. In 1982, American Bill Koch popularized the skating technique developed by long-distance European skiers. Although it began as keeping one ski in the track and pushing off of the other, it soon evolved as fully out of the track. The skate technique is much like ice skating and no kick wax is used. After much fighting about the future of cross country skiing, skating was adopted by the World Cup tour, and races split evenly between the techniques. Currently Cross Country Skiing is more popular than ever as more clubs and recreation areas join in.


Classical / Diagonal

The poles for Classical are typically about arm pit height, and the skis are waxed for grip. The wax ranges for all types of snow and temperatures. The boots are cut off below the ankle, so as to allow maximum movement.

The Classical technique is the most common. This is what most think of as cross country skiing. The speed is derived from a diagonal (forward and down) push from the foot, which engages the wax directly under and pushes from the snow. While one is pushing with the feet, the hands and arms are poling with same tempo, but in alternate intervals with the legs. The push of the legs and arms creates a glide which is ridden as long as possible before the next necessary push. Tempo uphill is increased and method shortened, as to achieve minimum slip.

Other techniques within Classical include the double-pole and the kick double-pole. Used when on flats, tired, or out of wax, the double pole involves pushing with both poles at the same time, while engaging the stomach muscles and bending the knees. The result is a burst of speed. The kick double-pole is the same thing with a push from the foot thrown in.

Skate / Freestyle

The skis in skating are completely smooth (no kick wax or fish scales) for maximum glide, as the "kick" comes from pushing of the edges much like ice skating. The poles are typically taller, about nose height. The boots are cut off above the ankle, so as to constrain the ankle to allow peak power transfer. Newer "skate-cut" skis are cut wider at the tips and tails to allow more push.The technique is divided into at least three sub-techniques.

V2 - used on flats and any other time speed is required, V2 involves poling twice on each interval. The skier pushes off with both poles and when the poles pass the skier's foot, he/she pushes off the edge of the ski. The momentum and weight of the skier is placed onto the opposite ski where it is ridden, on a flat ski, until it is necessary to repeat.

V2 Alternate - is the exact same as V2, except the skier only pushes with the poles on one side.

V1 - used for greatest speed one the uphills, V1 requires a fast tempo. It is similar to V2 alternate, where one is only poling on one side, but the action of poling and pushing off the ski edge occurs at the same time. Again, immediately after the push off, the glide is ridden on the opposite, flat ski. The poles are slightly staggered, so one is poled further ahead of the other, which is used to account for bends in the hills.



A tourer is any non-racer out for a fun-filled day of skiing. Usually occurring in ski centers on groomed trails. Tourers often rent their skis and are out to enjoy the sport and nature. Back-country skiers ski off groomed tracks and therefore their equipment is more rugged, nearly Telemark gear.


Hats - As tourers don't usually expend as much energy as racers, the hats are larger and warmer. Hat makers include: Swix, Yoko, and others.
Gloves - The same situation as Hats. Touring gloves can come in the amusing Lobster design, in which there are only two "fingers." Glove makers include: Swix, Yoko and others.
Top - a wind breaking warm jacket. Jacket makers include: Swix, Bjørn Daehlie, VOmax, and others
Bottom - a wind breaking warm pant. Pant makers include: Swix, Bjørn Daehlie, VOmax, and others.
Boots - The boots for touring are warm and comfortable, often larger than racing boots. Most rental boots are worn and broken in. The boots are often used for both techniques and called "combi." Boot Makers include: Alpina, Rossignol, Salomon, Adidas, and others.
Poles - Poles are generally heavy and thick to avoid breaking and baskets are large. Pole makers include: Swix, Excel,Infinity, and others.
Skis - Typically the skis are waxless, meaning that they have "fish scales" on the bottom so as to prevent slipping backwards and removing the necessity to wax. Ski makers include: Rossignol, Fischer, Peltonan, Madshus, Karhu, and others.
Wax - as mentioned under "Skis," often touring skis are waxless for convenience.


Cross country ski racing isn't for the weak, as it is one of the most aerobic sports out there. Racers are a tough breed who enjoy the thrill of the race and strive to get better. There are several different types of races, and racers. The racers range from recreational to elite. The elite races tend to ski faster and at greater distances. According to international rules, a racing course should contain uphill, downhill, and flat terrain in equal proportions. However, because of the slower speed achieved during climbing, more than half of the total racing time is spent going uphill, and only 10 to 15% downhill.

Ski racing is truly for all ages. Races start at preschool level where the skiers complete a small loop, usually noncompetitively. In some leagues these are known as lollipop races (the racers are lollipopers), for each racer receives a lollipop upon completion. Racers have also been known to ski into their seventies and even eighties!

The two techniques are raced in many different lengths and fashions ranging from 1k (kilometer ) sprints to 50k marathons. The most common denominations are: 1k, 5k, 7.5k, 10k, 15k, 25k, 30k, and 50k.

There are several different types of races:

Sprints The speed is all out, and the distance is minimum. For the elite racers distance ranges from 1-5k.

Regular - Regular races are just that, regular. The pace depends on the distances which are determined by the race level.

Marathons - Either 25k or 50k, marathons are the ultimate in endurance challenges.

Pursuits - The most recently developed racing style, pursuits are two races in one. The winner of the first race is the top starter in the second. Each following racer starts however far back they were from the top finisher

Relays - Teammates ski a course then tag another to do the same. The combined time of all is the final time.

Birkebeiner - A 58k touring race covering the same distance as the 1206 trek. The competitors carry a 5kg backpack as a memorial to the burden that the original "racers" carried.

Biathlon -More of its own sport rather than a race type, Biathlon involves cross country skiing and shooting. The racers ski for a period then shoot at a target. Penalties are given out for misses. The races cover every distance.

Nordic Combined - Again its own sport, Nordic Combined features the classical Nordic sports of skiing and jumping. The positioning of the start in the ski race is determined by the jumping. The skiing is exclusively skating.

Hats - When worn, hats are thin as to allow heat to escape, while still warming. Hat makers include: Swix, Yoko, and others.
Gloves - Gloves are thin and made for comfort and warmth while racing. Glove makers include: Swix, Yoko and others.
Top - While racing, most wear spandex. Either in full suit or two piece. Spandex makers include: Swix, Bjørn Daehlie, VOmax, and others.
Boots - The boots for racing are specialized for their techniques and sometimes or combi's. They are lighter and more refined. Boot Makers include: Alpina, Rossignol, Salomon, Adidas, and others.
Poles - Extremely light while retaining some strength, the poles for racing are more breakable. They have smaller baskets, and often better grips. Pole makers include: Swix, Excel, Infinity, and others.
Skis - The skis are much more refined and specialized. Ski makers focus much on the base and maker them lighter and faster. Ski makers include: Rossignol, Fischer, Peltonan, Madshus, and others.
Wax - both glide wax (used on the tips and tails) and kick wax can get specialized and expensive. Wax makers include: Swix, Toko, Fast Wax, and others.

Olympic Medal Count:

Country         G  S  B Total
Norway          26 30 18 74
Finland         20 22 29 71
Soviet Union    25 23 21 69
Sweden          20 15 12 49
Italy            5  9  9 23
Russia           8  3  2 13
Unified Team     3  2  4 9
Czechoslovakia   0  1  4 5
East Germany     2  1  1 4
Kazakhstan       1  2  1 4
Switzerland      0  0  3 3
Austria          0  1  1 2
Czech Republic   0  1  1 2
United States    0  1  0 1
Bulgaria         0  0  1 1

    Other Notable Stuff and Links

  • Bjørn Daehlie, arguably the best cross country skier ever, is the most decorated winter Olympian ever with 7 gold medals, and 4 silver medals.
  • Many racers keep in shape in the off season by using roller skis, which are essentially shortened skis with wheels, usually made of metal.
  • NENSA - New England Nordic Ski Assoc. is a large group responsible for nearly all the races in New England. www.nensa.net

    Works Cited:
  • http://cbs.sportsline.com/u/olympics/2002/history/sbs/xcountry.htm
  • http://home.hia.no/~stephens/skihis.htm
  • http://www.nensa.net/
  • My special knowledge.

If you have any corrections or additions please msg me! It is hard to get everything about this complicated sport.

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