Cross-Country skiing is a form of skiing where competitors move across snow-covered terrain. They do this without using ski-lifts or additional type of assistance. Cross-country skiing is widely practiced as a sport and recreational activity. However, some still use it as a means of transportation. There are different variations of the sport, depending on the terrain range. In some cases, there is mountainous, unimproved terrain. However, for the sport, there are specifically groomed courses. Cross-country skiing is controlled by the International Ski Federation (FIS). For more information about the sport, check their official website.

Cross-Country Skiing Intro
Welcome to Cross-Country Skiing

Modern cross-country skiing is similar to the original form of skiing. All skiing disciplines evolved from there, including alpine skiing, ski jumping and Telemark skiing. As such, the sport is a part of the Winter Olympics and the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. There are several events when it comes to this sport. However, it’s also a part of other sporting events. For instance, biathlon combines it with rifle shooting to create a whole different discipline. Keep reading to find out more information about this subject.

History of Cross-Country Skiing

Skiing started as a technique for traveling cross-country over snow on skis. It started almost five millennia ago somewhere in Scandinavia. There is evidence of people skiing for transport as early as 600 BCE. However, people also used it for going hunting and recreation. This activity evolved from a utilitarian means of transportation to being a worldwide recreational activity and sport. It branched out into other forms of skiing starting in the mid-1800s. At the start, skiers had just one big pole or a spear with them. Additionally, the skis were different for cross-country. There was one short ski and one longer ski for gliding. There have been reports of skis longer than 300 cm.

As a sport, cross-country skiing appeared in the 18th century in Norway. The military organized competitions which had several events. All of those events included skiing and were accompanied by another activity. This is how biathlon appeared as well. Skiing got combined with rifle shooting to create a sporting event. There is a record of the first competition of this kind. It happened in Tromso in 1843. However, the sport didn’t become popular in the rest of the world for a long time. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that cross-country really introduced itself.

US skier Bill Koch had a lot of success in the sport which attracted attention. His results in the 1982 Cross-country Skiing Championships caught the eye of the public.

Technique and Equipment

Cross-country skiing has two basic propulsion techniques. These techniques apply to different surfaces. Additionally, the two techniques are known as classic and skate skiing.


The classic style is used on prepared trails (pistes). Additionally, these trails have parallel grooves (tracks) cut into the snow. Nevertheless, this is the technique used for unprepared tracks. Each ski is pushed forward from the other stationary ski in a striding and gliding motion. The classic technique changes a bit depending on the slopes where it’s used.

Skate Skiing

Contrary to the classic method, skate skiing looks very similar to ice-skating. That means it requires a firm snow surface. It’s done pushing alternating skis away from one another at an angle. However, this method is mostly used when climbing a hill. Additionally, there are different variants of the technique, depending on the slopes.


Cross-country skiing requires skis, poles, boots, and bindings. However, they vary depending on several things.

  • The technique that’s used.
  • Whether the terrain is groomed or wild.
  • Whether it’s for recreation or professional competitions.

Additionally, the skis that are used are different to alpine skiing. They can be classic, skate skis or back country skis. Nevertheless, there is a difference with the boots as well. Unlike most skiing events, the boots are attached only at the toes. This leaves the heel free, giving the competitor more mobility. On the other hand, the poles in cross-country skiing are standard.


As we mentioned above, the FIS organizes and controls these events. The biggest competition is the Winter Olympics. However, there are other FIS sanctioned competitions. For instance, the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. Additional tournaments include the Cross-country ski marathons. They are held all around the world.

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