The current pandemic has led to an increase in the popularity of certain sports which are played on an individual basis. We only have to think of the shortage of bikes in stores in the Quebec City region or the record sales of season passes in most mountain biking centers.
If the trend continues, it's a safe bet that many Quebecers will be introduced to cross-country skiing this winter. If so, I want to tell you “it took you a long time 😀!”. No, but honestly, what a magnificent sport!
I am aware that I am biased but here is a non-exhaustive list of the advantages of its practice:
- it is the most physically complete sport after swimming;
- it not only improves our cardiovascular condition but also our muscular condition;
- it is ultra soft on the joints;
- it is practiced in the open air and, most of the time, in the middle of the forest;
- the Quebec City region is full of cross-country ski centers; guarantee that you will find one suitable for your level.
Over the years, I have been asked several questions related to the practice of cross-country skiing. Here are the most popular:
1. What style should I practice if I am a beginner?
Quickly, cross-country skiing understood 2 techniques: classic and skating (commonly called “skate”).
Here's an example of the classic:
And here is an example of “skate”:
As the classic is akin to walking, its technique is more natural than “skate”. So it is for this reason that I often recommend beginners to go with this option to start. Although the classic is less physically demanding, the fact remains that you will get your money's worth and that you may try the experience again if your first few times went well. Familiarize yourself quietly with this technique before trying to “skate”: the transition will be smoother.
2. What kind of equipment should I buy?
I could write a full article on this subject because it is so complex. I therefore suggest that you go to a specialized store that will be able to advise you adequately.
That being said, if you're just starting out, you don't need to equip yourself the first year. Instead, opt for equipment rental. You will be able to try both techniques (classic and “skate”) or even equipment of different quality. Also take the opportunity to assess whether the investment is worth the candle by noting the number of times you have skied during the winter. If you have, for example, 2 outings to your credit, the rental is far more advantageous! Not to mention that it will also allow you to assess whether you enjoy cross-country skiing enough to invest!
3. Where do I start?
Do a little research on the web to locate cross-country ski centers near you and select the one that turns out to have more accessible / easier trails. Trust me, you will have more fun on the flat staying on your skis than going down a super steep slope on foot, skis in your hands!
Then choose a relatively short route. Most centers offer an easy loop of around 2 km. Go into it to assess your abilities. If everything went wonderfully and you are up for a longer loop, go for it! The adventurous who embark on a 10 km loop for the first time often regret their decision halfway. The experience is a little less pleasant that way, let's be frank!
4. Do I have to take courses?
If you are a beginner, I wouldn't necessarily tell you and it's actually best if you go out on your own at the very beginning in order to familiarize yourself with this new sport. Doing this will allow you to receive lessons when you are more agile and better able to assimilate technical fixes. That being said, make sure, for your safety, to choose a center which represents little difference in height and which is not very technical (see point 3).
After that, it all depends on your goals in playing the sport. If you want to polish your technique, taking a few courses with specialists will make a huge difference. As cross-country skiing is an extremely technical sport, improving the latter will facilitate the effort and allow you to hurtle down the kms at a higher speed.
5. How do you get better at cross-country skiing?
This one, I admit having heard it more than once! As I mentioned earlier, cross-country skiing is extremely technical. If your technique is lacking, the effort is greater and you end your session completely exhausted. Which in itself isn't a bad thing when you think about it: you worked your muscular AND cardiovascular system, you increased your endurance, you got some fresh air, etc. But I admit that it can be a bit frustrating when a small youth passes you at full speed without seeming to force when you, on your side, advance at a turtle pace with a frantic heartbeat.
So to the question “How do you get better at cross-country skiing?”, I would answer: repetition! If there is a secret, this is it! The more you do, the better your balance will be, the more comfortable you will be on your skis and the more your body will be shaped to practice cross-country skiing.
I have skied in hundreds of cross-country ski centers all over the world and to be honest, the centers in the province of Quebec are of incredible quality and beauty! If you were hesitant to give it a try, I hope I convinced you to put on cross-country skis this winter!