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During the winter, many outdoor enthusiasts look to skiing as a way to maintain physical activity and explore the outdoors. While most people are familiar with downhill (Alpine) skiing, fewer are familiar with its cousin, cross-country or Nordic skiing.  While Alpine skiing is characterized by the carving technique in which skiers move side-to-side creating an “S” shaped figure on the mountain, Nordic techniques follow a linear path.1 The two common Nordic skiing styles are classic and skate. Classic skiing follows the natural human movement in which the arms and legs swing parallel in opposition, making it an easy activity to learn for beginners.2 The skating technique is advanced and allows the skier to travel at faster speeds. During the motion, the skier pushes off the rear ski in a continuous motion from side-to-side, a movement similar to rollerblading.3  During classic skiing, pole use mimics the natural movement of the arms and legs during walking and running cycles.4 The use of poles during Nordic skiing places an added emphasis on upper-body strength and conditioning, making for a terrific full-body workout. Nordic skiers use upper-body, lower-body, and trunk muscles leading to a higher achieved heart rate.5 But before heading to the trails, skiers must gauge their abilities and prepare themselves in an effort to avoid injuries.

 While Nordic skiing remains a relatively low-risk sport, adequate rest and prior training are still essential. Injury rates are 0.51 per 1,000 skiers days for recreational skiers and 0.09 for competitive skiers. Frequent Nordic skiers typically suffer from overuse injuries of the knee, lower back, shoulder, and anterior thigh. The risk of these injuries increases five times for those with fewer than two days of rest per week.6 Thus, to avoid injury, it is important to recover before revisiting the trails. In addition to rest, skiers, especially beginners, should prepare themselves physically. Strength training of the upper and lower body and increased range of motion at the knees, hips, and elbows has been noted to increase speeds and endurance during skiing cycles.6 So if you are heading to the trails soon, be sure to incorporate some full-body exercises into your routine. The learning curve for becoming proficient in Nordic skiing is short and it is a sport that is accessible to all ages. Nordic skiing is a great way to enjoy the outdoors during the winter while getting a fantastic workout.


1. Greenwald R, Senner V, Swanson S. Biomechanics of carving skis. Schweiz Z Sportmed. Sporttraumatol. 2001. 49(1):40–44.

2. McKenney, K. Classic vs Skate. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from August 3, 2014.

3. Lawson SK, Reid DC, Wiley JP. Anterior compartment pressures in cross-country skiers.  The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 1992. 20(6), 750-753.

4. Duoos BA. Kick, Glide, Pole! Cross-country skiing fun (Part I). Strategies. 2011. 25(2), 23-26.

5. Stöggl T, Schwarzl C, Müller EE, et al. A comparison between Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and indoor cycling on cardiorespiratory and metabolic response.  Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. 2011.15(1), 184–195.

6. Nagle KB. Cross-country skiing injuries and training methods. Current Sports Medicine Reports. 2015.14(6), 442-447


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