People in the cross country ski business (professionals who sell equipment, run ski areas, teach lessons, write ski content, etc.) often debate about winning Olympic medals and if there is a significant impact on cross country (XC) skiing in the USA.
At a ski industry association meeting after the Olympic gold medal was won by the US women’s cross country skiers in the 2018 Winter Olympics, a leading company manager stated “the number of cross country skiers in the US will double after this!” There has never been a winner in the debate about the so-called “Olympic bump” but after the publicity about XC skiing, the industry is hopeful that there will be an up tick in the number of people who try XC skiing this winter.
The highly-conditioned Olympic athletes can generate and enjoy skiing at speeds above 35 miles per hour (with some help from gravity). The grace and power that’s possible to achieve using both technique and fitness is amazing to see, and fun to experience! But there’s another side to XC skiing. It can be done at any speed, and many who do it love it for its relaxing, rhythmic movements that carry one into winter wonderlands. Skiers can pick their own pace, gliding along through fields and forests, stopping when they choose, soaking in the beauty of the natural snow-covered world. It can be as peaceful and quiet as the skier wants, or as energetic, fast and exciting. Every bend in the trail can bring new sights and sounds.
For those that enjoy learning, the possibilities of XC skiing are virtually endless. While an hour’s instruction can provide the skills to a new skier to have them negotiating and enjoying mixed terrain safely, the technical nuances of the sport can be explored for years. XC skiing on the trails has two main disciplines, classic skiing and skate skiing, and within each there are sub-techniques that allow one to cover all grades of uphill, downhill, and flat terrain with efficiency and grace. There is also off-trail skiing (for example, in a local park or on a snow covered golf course) and backcountry skiing (up and down hillsides). And not to be discounted is the value of meeting and spending time with others who share the love of outdoor activity and nature. XC skiers are just really nice people.
XC skiing can be done most anywhere snow coats the ground. There are also specific cross country ski centers, which feature mechanically groomed trails, ski equipment to purchase or rent, food and drink, and instruction. All the states that get snow in the winter have these ski centers (check out www.XCSkiResorts.com) and it’s well worth traveling to one to get started in the sport.