The first cross-country skiers lived in Scandinavia around 5,000 years ago. At that time, this sport served to transport heavy loads over long distances or to go hunting. I assume, it wasn’t quite so much fun skiing (without, as we have today, groomed trails), not to mention the equipment.
Late 1950’s, early 1960’s this sport became more and more popular in our neck of the woods. Cross-country skiing was previously only practiced by a few “odd birds”. Yet gradually the endurance sport developed into an alternative activity in winter. Hand in hand with it of course, came the development of the equipment too. In principle, similar to the development of alpine skis. Starting with an entirely wooden ski. In the meantime, ultralight cross-country skis are used.
The technique has also been developed – from the original CLASSIC style (is still widely practiced today) to the Finn step and the sporty skating style. However, the Finn step – where one leg is pushed sideways – didn’t prevail for long. As this movement completely destroyed the trail itself.
Thus today, cross-country skiers ski in classic or skating style. Classic style can be described as “walking in the track” with the addition of perfect co-ordination of arms and legs with a gliding phase, and for skating style there’s normally an approx. 3-4 m wide, flat, straight area groomed next to the mostly 2 classic tracks. However, not always automatically groomed on all trail sections for both variations. With skating skis short skating sections can be conquered with the double-push technique. Whether that functions the other way around, I’m not sure 🙂 ! I assume, that it’s not problem.
Classic skis are basically longer and have a special part in the mid-section of the base of the ski (mostly a type of fish style pattern or on newer models small skin parts like on backcountry touring skis).
Classic models are longer and the more often you service them (best with hot wax) the easier they glide). You can get advice on the optimum length of skis and poles at the many sport shops. There are also different boots for classic and skating styles.
Cross-country skiing is great fun, once you’ve learned how to do it properly (especially skating). It makes sense to take lessons, so you’re not doing it wrong from the start.
Particularly at the beginning (skating) it’s not easy to even conquer the easiest of inclines. There are, however, trails in the region (e.g. Altenmarkt-Zauchensee) where you can meet up with a Flying Coach,on hand with advice and tips.
At this time of year, where we can expect long days of sunshine in the Salzach and Enns Pongau Valleys (until 5.00-5.30 pm) – provided the weather’s fine – cross-country skiing is perfect after a day in the office or as an encore after a long day’s skiing. As mentioned, cross-country skiing makes a welcome change to so many indoor activities. According to studies, 95% of muscles are activated, it increases blood circulation and is ideal for those with vein problems, boosts balance and co-ordination, strengthens heart and circulation and trains the whole body without straining the joints.
Perfect cross-country skiing is only possible on an intact track. If this is damaged, the gliding flow is interrupted and can even lead to the cross-country skier falling. So please take note if you are a pedestrian (particularly if you are walking your dog) and stay on the footpaths. That way enjoying nature together is guaranteed.
photo credits: Hannes Rieser, TVB Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, TVB Filzmoos