Cross-country skiing is also called Nordic skiing, and it will challenge you physically and take you to stunning places

The first step to finding these serene locations is to get out and learn how to cross-country ski in a fun, safe way. 

Nordic Skiing 101

Cross-country skiing is a form of skiing that relies solely on human power to move across the snow. No chairlifts here. Unlike downhill skiing you are moving over flat, uphill and downhill terrain. The skis are designed to allow the heels to lift to drive uphill and provide forward movement as well as maintain stability on the downhills.

Styles of Cross-Country Skiing

There are four main styles of cross-country skiing. As a beginner, it is best to start with the classic style to get a feel for the movement in a comfortable environment. Once you gain skills in the classic style, the other styles will be much easier to learn.

Classic – The most popular form of cross-country skiing is the classic style, a style that generally takes place on well-maintained tracks. Classic cross-country skis are stiff, narrow and lightweight so they can glide quickly and smoothly on the neatly packed, and sometimes tracked, snow.

Skate – The difference with skate-style cross-country skiing comes in the technique. The drive to move forward is similar to the way that you propel yourself forward when wearing ice skates, hence the name. This is performed on groomed tracks.

Light Touring – The light-touring style allows you to cross-country ski both on- and off-trail, not always on groomed tracks.       

Backcountry Touring – Backcountry touring usually includes skiing through deeper and unpacked snow, providing you the ability to access untouched areas.


● GET THE GEAR: Start by renting or borrowing gear to get a feel for what you like.


Pick a boot that is comfortable to allow you to move comfortably, lifting your heels, off the skis to drive movement.


There are many options depending on the style of cross-country skiing. By starting with the classic style, you keep things simple while learning the basics.


The classic cross-country ski is stiff, narrow and lightweight so it can glide quickly and smoothly across groomed or packed snow.


Be sure to dress warm, with layers. As you move across the snow you will get warm. You want to make sure you have a good base layer, adding warm layers that take the weather into account. To be on the safe side, consider bringing a warm puffy jacket as well as a waterproof outer jacket. Wear snow pants that will keep you warm, wool socks to keep your feet dry and warm and gloves to protect your hands from wind and snow.


Water, snacks and sunscreen!


In a lesson, you will learn the fundamentals that will encourage you to keep getting outdoors. You will learn how to herringbone (climb uphill) and how to safely stop, turn and glide. These lessons promote success and safety.


Many local cross-country ski areas have Nordic tracks. This is the best place to start. It allows you to learn the basics without worrying about the backcountry elements. Often you can get lessons from local guides here as well.


Be aware of your surroundings. It is easy to focus on what is right in front of you. However, looking up allows you to see other people, and also prepare for what is coming up (flats, uphills and downhills).


Equipment for cross-country skiing:

·       Base layer

·       Wool socks

·       Warm jacket

·       Waterproof jacket

·       Skis with appropriate bindings

·       Ski boots

·       Poles

·       First-aid kit

·       Sunscreen

·       Small backpack for water and snacks

·       Map or navigation device

pristine snow
Once you learn how to Nordic ski and become comfortable with the techniques, gear and equipment, your backyard just gets bigger. Ski tracks up Cascade Creek in the San Juan Mountains.Jan Nesset

Cross-country skiing is frequently viewed as boring or old school. In reality, this sport is a great physical workout that ties to the beauty of the outdoors. Once you learn the basics, you can venture into the backcountry and explore places you have never seen before.

Local Tracks

·       Vallecito Nordic Center

·       Durango Nordic Center

·       Purgatory Nordic Center

·       Mancos Chick Creek Nordic Center


·       Base: The flat bottom of the ski where wax is applied

·       Bindings: Devices that secure the toe of the boot to the ski

·       Butt Marks/Sitzmark: An indentation in the snow left behind by a fallen skier

·       Camber: The upward curve built into the middle of the ski used to help determine the kick zone

·       Classic Technique: Traditional ski technique where skiers use a diagonal stride with both skis remaining parallel to each other

·       Double Pole: To propel the body forward while planting both poles in the snow at the same time

·       Herringbone: A technique where skis are moved in a forward stepping motion with ski tips farther apart than the tails

·       Sidestep: To move laterally in small steps on cross-country skis; sometimes used to climb a steep hill