Cross-country skiing has been booming for years in the United States, but with the coronavirus pandemic’s first full winter, it’s set to get bigger than ever. The spread of COVID-19 has seen huge gains in many forms of outdoor recreation amenable to social distancing, including hiking, golfing and cycling, and now that winter is here, skiing background is one of the easiest ways to continue researching the company. fresh air, exercise and fitness with millions of people still working from home, travel restrictions and regional lockdowns are on the rise again alongside record infection rates.
At the same time, the limitation of alpine ski resorts and restrictions on the capacity of ski lifts, as well as the general uneasiness of travel, have made regular alpine skiing vacations less attractive this season, and many city dwellers cannot even not do their usual weekends. This leaves cross-country, with its cheaper equipment, much cheaper access, and a few barriers to entry – other than snow – as a perfect alternative. It’s a lot easier and faster to learn than downhill skiing or snowboarding, and it can even be done in urban areas – I went cross-country skiing in New York’s Central Park.
There have been two other hot and fast-growing winter sports during this most unusual season, and you can learn more about both here at TBEN. Snowshoeing is the cheapest and easiest snow pursuit to try, requiring no special skills and little equipment. Alpine hiking (AT) or uphill skiing is the best alternative to alpine skiing with ski lifts, but is more demanding on equipment and better suited to already experienced alpine skiers.
In the three years leading up to the pandemic, cross country saw an increase of almost 40%, and this accelerated after the 2018 Winter Olympics and the historic first gold medal success of the women’s team of the United States. But the coronavirus outbreak has further accelerated that curve, and ski industry trade group Snowsports Industries America (SIA) polled consumers ahead of winter and predicted a 28% increase in attendance at snow sports this season, the biggest jump being cross-country skiing (+ 65%) ahead of notable growth in snowshoeing, AT skiing and fat-tire cycling.
“As people strive to stay healthy during the pandemic, 2020 has brought about a boom in the activities people can do near home and properly away from others. When it comes to winter and the uncertainty surrounding ski resort operations, many in the outdoor industry expect cross-country skiing to experience a similar rise to what we’ve seen. with cycling and trail running this spring and summer, ”said Jeff Courter, Nordic Category Product Manager for Rossignol, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of cross-country ski equipment. “With a relatively low barrier to entry in terms of cost and specific ski skills, cross-country skiing is accessible to beginners and is a great solution for going out while keeping a safe distance from others.
Sport also matches the growing goal of wellness and the growing interest in all things fitness, providing superior training with less risk of injury than many other action sports. It has a short learning curve, and beginners can benefit from it right off the bat, while better-conditioned athletes can push themselves to the limits of aerobics with skate skiing, the sport’s most demanding discipline. For travelers, it can be enjoyed in the same beautiful places and big ski towns as downhill skiing, but because it requires less snow and doesn’t need mountains, you can do it in many more destinations. and closer or in large cities. .
While downhill skiing is an alpine discipline, cross-country skiing falls under Nordic and consists of three main forms, all of which use very comfortable lightweight boots, a good start downhill boots or even hiking boots. The classic is by far the most popular. This involves sliding skis one leg at a time down two parallel groomed, slot-shaped tracks, and the skis never lose contact with the snow. Today, the vast majority of participants use waxless skis, which have a textured fish scale pattern molded into the base so they easily slide forward but not back, so when you push the ski back, you go forward. There are waxable versions as well, but no one should consider that, it’s usually only for racing or hardcore enthusiasts. Classic can be picked up in minutes but continues to entertain and challenge indefinitely, and most Nordic trail centers have easy (green), intermediate (blue), and advanced (black) terrain just like the downhill stations.
Classic packages for beginners, including skis, bindings, poles and boots, can be purchased for well under $ 400 from sites like crosscountryski.com – less than a simple pair of decent alpine ski boots. and many online retailers, including Backcountry.com, Skis.com, REI.com and many more, offer Nordic equipment. Sure, for the perfect fit and advice you’re better off in a brick and mortar store, but in these weird times it can be tough.
Skating is the discipline more focused on aerobic fitness, where skiers push each other with a V-shaped stride like ice skating, lifting one foot off the snow at a time, usually at a faster pace, using shorter skis and on a wider groomed path with no runs. Skating can be done in a lot fewer places as they have to maintain a track specifically for it and it is more for serious training than enjoying the great outdoors. It also requires a lot more balance and coordination and is more difficult to understand.
Off-piste or off-piste cross-country skiing is a classic without groomed trails, in unspoiled snow. It takes more effort but allows users to go anywhere and venture further into nature, and this category has grown in recent years with advancements in technology, mainly larger skis for more. flotation device with metal edges for better control on descents. More recently, a new generation of cross-country skis have been introduced with easy to put on and take off ‘skins’, strips of fabric that dramatically increase traction to facilitate climbs on big climbs. Rossignol is one of the companies leading this charge, and their system is called R-Skin. “Our collection of cross-country ski equipment uses turnkey technologies that make it easy for newcomers to slide down the trails or go on mountain hikes. R-Skin has been newly introduced to our touring line as a ready-to-ski concept that delivers hassle-free kick and glide performance in all conditions. The replaceable R-Skin mohair insert provides an easy, consistent kick and maximum glide without prep work and is good for 100 to 150 days in the snow, ”explained Courter.
Personally, I use one of those wider, meta backcountry style skis, but still narrow enough to accommodate groomed trails, so I can do it all with just one pair. As a rule of thumb, up to 68mm wide will still be suitable for slopes, a common size for this reason, while traditional classic skis can roll under 50mm.
If you’re new to cross-country skiing, the best way to start is to visit a Nordic center or resort hotel with a trail system and try out rental gear and take a lesson. There are hundreds of them across the country, the first and most famous of which is the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont, the oldest northern center in the country and the first to make snow. The trail network even includes a microbrewery! (but Vermont currently operates with a strict 7-14 day quarantine for all out-of-state visitors). A good resource is the Association of Cross-Country Ski Resorts, an industry group of trail systems across the country. Her site has both a directory of places to go and a lot of useful tips for beginners. The Nordic Approach is a new electronic magazine covering various aspects of the lifestyle across the country that you may find interesting and useful.
Most major ski resorts and ski towns also have Nordic trail systems, perfect for those who want to mix things up and try cross-country skiing without committing to an entire vacation or forgoing the descent. Some of the best spots in North America combining world-class cross-country skiing and downhill skiing are Beaver Creek, Colorado; Stowe of Vermont; Sun Valley, Idaho; Kirkwood of Tahoe, California; and Whistler / Blackcomb, BC, which has a state-of-the-art Nordic center built for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games – you can even try out the rarely available discipline of biathlon here. Note that many of these destinations, as well as travel in general, may be limited or inaccessible in the current pandemic.